Out Of Darkness ... Light? That Donald Trump possesses an enormous ego is indisputable. The question is: will that ego be better served by becoming one of America’s truly great presidents – or one of its very worst?
LET’S BE OPTIMISTIC about President-Elect Donald Trump. Optimistic? Seriously? Yes, seriously.
Oh, I know that America’s late-night liberal chat-show hosts are all hyperventilating at the prospect of President Trump. And, yes, I’m aware that the global Left is competing furiously in the self-flagellation stakes. Because, of course, Trump’s victory was all about them and their failure to retain the loyalty of white working-class males. (Although, quite how the Left hoped to do that after nearly 40 years of heaping unrelenting economic, social and cultural humiliation on Caucasian proletarian masculinity defeats me utterly!) But, if you’ll just bear with me, I’ll try to outline why a Trump presidency could end up okay.
Let’s begin with the comments of ex-pat Kiwi businessman turned big-time American corporate CFO and Washington insider, Chris Liddell. On TVNZ’s Q+A current affairs show, Liddell commented that Trump’s victory marks the definitive end of the era of untrammelled free-market capitalism.
According to this former CFO of Microsoft and General Motors, rising inequality and the hollowing-out of the Western middle-classes are trends that the global political class (and the corporate interests they represent) can no longer ignore. Trump’s victory, said Liddell, equals “Brexit x 10”.
Or, as Bob Dylan used to say: “The times they are a-changing.”
“Oh, come on!”, I hear you say. “Optimism is one thing, but peddling pure fantasy is another.”
Fair enough. Let me, therefore, draw your attention to the response of Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, to Trump’s election-night promise to launch a massive programme of infrastructure renewal.
The Republican and Democratic parties, she said, will be forced to “come together and find common ground”. She also reminded the news media that a massive programme dedicated to rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure was one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest election promises. If Trump sends an massive infrastructure bill to the House, then there can be little doubt that the Democrats will vote for it.
Which is all very well, but what about the Republicans? Is it really credible to suggest that the party which implacably resisted every economic and social reform advanced by the Obama Administration is suddenly going to embrace his much-maligned “Stimulus Package” as their own?
A better question, perhaps, is what will become of them if they don’t?
What must never be forgotten is that Trump comes to the White House carrying less political baggage than any presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower. His billionaire status enables him to operate without recourse to the squalid back-room horse-trading that has turned-off so many American voters.
It’s a situation ideally suited to a successful populist leader. Having run against “The Establishment” and won, Trump now needs to demonstrate what his victory means in legislative terms. The very best way to do that is take up a position bestriding both the Democratic and Republican parties. By demanding bi-partisan support for his plans to restore American greatness he will be offering himself a win-win proposition. If the Democrats refuse to play ball, they will merely reinforce their estrangement from “Heartland America”. If the Republican Party balks at Trump’s Keynesian solutions (which, ideologically-speaking, they are bound to do) then Trump has them over a barrel – a pork barrel.
A Republican congress foolish enough to resist Trump’s programme will prove to the American people that it wasn’t Barack Obama who was the problem, or even the godless Democratic Party. An obstructionist Republican majority will demonstrate conclusively that Washington’s problems are ultimately traceable to the Republican Party itself.
If this eventuates, then Trump’s options are twofold. Either, he reaches out to Nancy Pelosi and the new Senate Minority Leader, and makes America great with the votes of Trump Republican loyalists and the Democratic Party. Or, he turns to his “base” and asks it to deliver him a pliable congress at the earliest opportunity – the Mid-Term Elections of 2018.
This latter course would allow Trump to do what nobody else – Democrat or Republican – has been able to do since 2008: purge the Republican Party of its extremist, Tea Party, element. The consequent drawing together of the two major parties would restore to the Legislative Branch the bi-partisanship it so conspicuously lacks: that willing co-operation among legislators which the framers of the US Constitution deemed essential to the success of representative government.
Such a course of action would, naturally, earn Trump the bitter enmity of his fellow One Percenters – who would almost certainly attempt an end-run around both the Executive and Legislative Branches by appealing to the Judiciary. What better reason could Trump have for appointing a string of intelligent and independent Supreme Court Justices?
That Donald Trump possesses an enormous ego is indisputable. The question is: will that ego be better served by becoming one of America’s truly great presidents – or one of its very worst?
This essay was originally published in The Press Of Wednesday, 16 November 2016.