What I’ve Learned After a Year of Trump

Donald Trump unfortunately is already more consequential than any US President since Ronald Reagan. Trump will reshape our judiciary, he has already reshaped our tax code, and next year he will have an opportunity to undo much of the Great Society and New Deal. There are some things we may not be able to restore, at least not for a long time, such as the dignity of the office. We can’t exactly bottle back up whatever Trump’s candidacy let out, it’s here now and we’re going to have to live with it. However, we can learn from what’s happening and discern what it means to live in this strange and foreign land that was once America. I don’t know exactly what Trump is or what the hell is happening with our politics, but 2017 gave me some time to reflect and this is what I’ve come up with.


  1. Donald Trump won the hearts of Republicans, Trumpism did not


    1. There’s a line from Hillary Clinton’s book What Happened (which if you haven’t read, you should) that muses on the notion that the Republican ideology is bankrupt, she says “Trump came along and pulled back the curtain on what was really going on. We learned that many Republican voters didn’t have any problem with big government, so long as it was big government for them…. He promised to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, while abandoning free trade and getting tough on bankers, in direct contradiction of Republican orthodoxy. Instead of paying a price for it, he swept away all his more traditional GOP rivals”. Some have argued that Trump’s victory was a result of cultural resentment from white voters who felt out of place in a country that is increasingly becoming less white. But after witnessing calamitous loses in Virginia, New Jersey, Alabama, and close special elections in Kansas, Montana, and South Carolina of all places…a common theme persists. No matter what campaign strategy is employed, embracing Donald Trump, attempting Trumpism without Trump, etc… voters who approve of the President’s performance are voting for Democrats. Considering that the President is still attacking Hillary Clinton and so are his supporters suggests that for many Trump supporters 2016 was about hating Hillary Clinton which inevitably had to lead to a self-rationalization of supporting Trump. How else could people support someone who brags about sexually assaulting women, insults veterans as well as their widows, and seems to be “temperamental” at best and a complete loon at worst? It becomes easy if one can always pivot back to Hillary, who some viewed as evil incarnate and use their hate for her to renew their support of him. However, Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot in 2018, and the Trump-McConnell-Ryan policy proposals are massively unpopular. Trumpism is toxic, and quite a few Republicans are going to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to the decision on whether to run towards or away from Trump. When Hillary Clinton eventually fades from the national memory, we’ll see whether Donald Trump can even survive politically.


  1. Ivanka & Jared will not save us
    1. Remember when the conventional wisdom, at least on Morning Joe, was Ivanka & Jared Kushner were the adults in the oval office? That the President respects his daughter and values the counsel of his son-in-law and therefore would be less inclined to act the way he had during the campaign because they would moderate him or perhaps even get him to adopt liberal stances on climate change or equal pay? That did not happen and will not happen because as it turns out, Trump’s children and son-in-law are actually sycophants. When Ivanka declared “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children” after learning of the accusations against Roy Moore, the President still endorsed him and recorded ads for him. It is time to accept that they are complicit in the disintegration of our democracy and are only interested in maintaining their proximity to power because they’re using their connection to the President to enrich themselves. Ivanka and Jared are not seriously interested in the future of this country, but when Jared is indicted by Robert Muller I’m sure we’ll hear about how everything he did was in the national interest. Ivanka is not a friend of any working woman, and she could not be as she continues to lavish praise upon her serial sexual harasser father about how good he is to women. We progressives do not have allies in the White House, and if we did they certainly would not be Ivanka and Jared who have only used their influence to get the President to obstruct justice and fire James Comey to keep Jared out of prison. They are not democrats, they are plutocrats.


  1. Republicans Politicians Speak Loudly and Carry a Twig


    1. Jeff Flake, the esteemed senator from Arizona, wrote a book defending his idealized version of conservatism, donated to Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama and gave a speech on the floor of the senate criticizing Trump for destabilizing our country. Susan Collins, the esteemed senator from Maine, made a point of emphasizing how important it was that people in her state had access to healthcare which has been made possible by the affordable care act. Bob Corker, the esteemed senator from Tennessee, stated he could never vote for a bill that increases the deficit and all but said that President Trump was mentally unbalanced. John McCain, the maverick, sunk the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare because he believes in our institutions and that government needs to operate under regular order. Would you believe all those people abandoned everything honorable about them that was previously mentioned to vote for a tax bill that was not conservative, repealed the individual mandate in Obamacare, increases the deficit, and definitely wasn’t passed under regular order? The entire GOP conference would probably rather Trump wasn’t President, they find time to go on MSNBC to criticize the President so they can have nice articles written about them in the New York Times or Politico about how they’ve put party before country. But these senators have the same policy goals of the President, and their disagreements are about style and not substance. That is why we cannot rely on them to stop a dangerous judicial nominee, protect undocumented children, or any children for that matter as CHIP slowly is running out of money. They are Republican senators and come what may, they will support the President.


  1. Donald Trump is in Charge


    1. We thought Mike Pence ran the White House. Then we thought Vladimir Putin ran the White House. Then we thought Steve Bannon ran the White House. Then we thought Reince Priebus ran the White House. Then we thought Jared Kushner ran the White House. Then we thought John Kelly ran the White House. But now we know, and perhaps we always knew but the prospect was so terrifying that we pushed it away from us, that Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States and runs the White House. That has been put on full display during the Korean missile crisis when Trump said, “If forced…we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”. If Trump decides to launch a nuclear weapon, he can. John Kelly can fire the Mooch a million times over, but should Trump take a course that essentially causes the destruction of the Korean Peninsula and puts the United States in the crosshairs of several ICBMs, it won’t matter that John Kelly was chief of staff. Donald Trump is leading (rather poorly, but leading all the same) his party in the direction he wants them to go. Mitch McConnell will keep trying to repeal Obamacare not because he likes being embarrassed, but because the President wants to keep trying. Does Paul Ryan want to deport immigrant children? Probably not, but what Ryan wants is inconsequential because Trump has no real interest in renewing DACA therefore it won’t be on the docket. Whether or not Trump knows what he is doing is still in the air, but we must concede that he is making the decisions behind closed doors because nobody but him would allow this much chaos.


  1. Trump Supporters are Deplorable, but not Irredeemable


    1. The third of America that still supports Donald Trump after a year of his defending white supremacists, throwing tantrums on twitter, posturing for nuclear war, endorsing child molesters, insulting flood victims, and embarrassing this country on the world stage…they are actually deplorable. When it was 2016 and there was still some debate about how Donald Trump would lead if elected coupled with the specter of a Clinton presidency, I could have understood supporting Donald Trump. He promised he would be presidential and his rhetoric of supporting infrastructure, protecting social security, and being “pro-LGBTQ” suggested a more moderate presidency than what we received. However, we’ve had a year and we know what we’re getting and there’s no excuse for still supporting Trump. Because supporting conservative policies and supporting Donald Trump are actually not mutually exclusive, it is possible to do one and not the other. Sen. Jeff Flake is a prime example. He is Mr. Conservative, he was the tea party before there was a tea party and he does not support the President. Therefore, people are consciously making the choice, absent of Hillary Clinton and presented with a number of alternatives, to support Donald Trump. Now here’s what matters, there’s absolutely no way around these people being deplorable however they are all redeemable and that’s true if we look at Trump’s approval rating. His approval rating is still above water in states that he won in 2016, but they’ve taken quite a dip. In West Virginia, he’s lost 20 points. In Indiana, he’s lost 22 points. In Missouri, he’s lost 16 points and the trend is the same in every state. Just looking at his approval numbers, we see that while Trump’s approval has been in the high thirties for several months. That might look as if nothing has changed, but there is a difference between “strongly approve” and “somewhat approve”. At the beginning of his presidency, nearly 30% of Americans strongly approved of the President but by the May that number was barely 20%. Those “Strong Approvers” still approve of the President, but they’re less fanatical than they once were. Some die-hard Trumpers are now ambivalent about the President even if they haven’t reached the point of disapproval. People who voted for the President aren’t regretting their votes because many of them still passionately hate Hillary Clinton, but they are bothered by the behavior of their candidate. So, we have to believe that facts actually do matter as well as policies and how the media covers politics. Because Hillary was wrong when she called Trump supporters irredeemable, because even though they may never be liberals if we don’t give up we can turn them away from Trumpism. That said, the fact that it is taking this long is disheartening but at least we know it’s possible and in 2018 perhaps we can crack through even more.