It’s been a week since Donald Trump won the election. Here are some key takeaways that can lend us some clues as to what we can expect moving forward, and some we can extrapolate for the next four years.
Actually, it’s mostly good news.
Trump is really trying
You might think that’s either too obvious or not pertinent, but it’s important. That first visit to the Oval Office seems to have had an effect. There he learned the scope of what the President of the United States does, and it may have humbled him a bit. The fact that a thousand people will need to be ready to start work on January 20 is sinking in, and Trump is working hard to play catch up.
Trying is 80 percent of the job. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have someone with very little conception of the actual duties and pressures learn the position. As long as he tries.
It’s true, he has no ties to manipulate him
One of Trump’s first acts was to can Chris Christie as head of the transition team. The reason: Christie loaded the team with lobbyists and some political hacks. Were they “bad people?” No. But they were like vultures circling waiting for a meal. If Trump wants to #DrainTheSwamp, he had to start there.
The people who get transition team, adviser, and cabinet positions will be those Trump personally feels he can rely on. There will be no quid-pro-quo in the Trump administration. Loyalty and protecting the boss will be the rewarded behavior.
Infighting is healthy
What everyone else thinks is a “knife fight” is a natural process for Trump. If Giuliani wants the secretary of state job, he’s going to have to fight for it. He truly wants some level of conflict in his administration, because that will give him a gauge for how certain groups will react to any given decision.
It’s not like Trump is going to listen to his advisers, not as a group anyway. He’s just as likely to go with what the last person he talked to said, but with a balance of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the ever-steady Reince Priebus as chief of staff and the permanent middle-finger of Stephen Bannon, he’ll have a range of opinions from which to choose.
Fearless of failure
Trump dismissed substantially his entire transition team after demoting Christie and handing it over to Pence. That put a huge dent in what needs to be complete in just over 60 days. The transition team will have to work harder, and still probably won’t get where they need to be by January 20th. But Trump’s transition will be free of lobbyists and cronies.
How many political leaders could pull a switch like that and live through the inevitable storm that follows? Trump simply doesn’t care. A thousand people will get political appointments, and if I had to guess, 25 to 50 percent of them will end up fired during Trump’s term.
The rule is: disappoint POTUS or make him look bad, and you’re fired. It’s Sun Tzu all the way down. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in the true civil service sphere where it’s nigh impossible to fire anyone. But it’s not hard for Congress to cut funding, which makes everyone’s job tied to a particular budget line-item a game of musical chairs. At some point in his tenure, Trump will figure out that he gets to call the tune, and then things could change quickly.
The biggest pushback Trump will get is from individual representatives and senators up for election in 2018. People in a district who lose their jobs tend to remember that at the voting booth. But again, Trump won’t care. He may be able to make that “penny plan” work for him. The only way to do it is to be fearless of failure.
Trump can take on untouchable issues
If you were looking for Trump to roll back same-sex marriage, you’ll be disappointed. (Although President Obama was pro-traditional marriage during his campaign and changed his mind in office. So there’s hope.) If you’re looking for Trump to tackle campaign finance, the influence of lobbyists, and term limits, you’ve found your man.
This is the one (and only) reason I’m happy that Bannon is in the White House along with Trump. Bannon is toxic to the Washington establishment and acts like garlic to vampires, or wolfsbane to werewolves. Trump will need to whip up massive public support for efforts like this–and even (gasp!) collaborate with Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders to ram it through.
The public support part isn’t hard, but only someone like Trump can do this since he isn’t dependent on his government job or keeping it.
The love/hate relationship with the press is now only hate
The press will use anything–and I mean anything–to try to embarrass, discredit, or otherwise hinder Trump. I mean look at this headline: “As Trump Leaves Press Behind for Steak Dinner, Incoming Admin Already Showing Lack of Transparency” (NBC News). Seriously, a private family dinner is being used to create a “snub” of the press corps.
Imagine how they are going to feel when Trump revokes their press credentials. This is something Obama tried and failed to do with Fox News. But now there’s a precedent for trying. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump succeeds, especially with jackass headlines like that.
Trump has spent most of his Twitter time attacking the press–nothing surprising here. But he has shown good restraint on posting random and damaging rants. There’s nothing more terrifying than being singled out by the President-elect.
The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transition. It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
I am not trying to get "top level security clearance" for my children. This was a typically false news story.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
That last story…there’s an element of truth to it, in that Trump isn’t trying to make his kids into super spies. But they are closely tied to his campaign and his transition. It’s not unreasonable for some of them to obtain security clearances to access some of the information they’ll surely need. So yes, security clearance was requested for Trump kids, but no, it’s not nefarious.
Keep the main thing the main thing
The press and Trump’s detractors would like to make his entire presidency about the “alt-right.” Yes, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and their antisocial friends are a stain and a blot on Trump’s campaign. He deserves much of the protest (not the violence) he’s getting because he brought it on himself. It will mostly pass.
But Trump ignores the protests for the most part. In George W. Bush’s presidency, and in Barack Obama’s, various groups have focused on the most negative aspects and sought to hang it around their necks. It’s always “the most divided we’ve ever been.”
Once in the White House, Trump will do well (and it appears he can do this) to avoid getting sucked into every personal attack and keep the main thing, the main thing. That was everyone’s biggest fear of Trump, since he was so easy to bait in the campaign. He still responds to press stories, but we probably won’t see him tweeting about Lena Dunham or Rosie O’Donnell as much–hopefully not at all.
Maybe the biggest thing Bannon can do in the White House is to be the lightning rod. Bannon deserves his detractors’ venom, because in many ways he’s a horrible, terrifying person. I have more faith in America than the people out in the streets who think Bannon is going to put on a Hugo Boss suit with twin lightning bolts on the lapels, and proclaim Trump fuhrer. That’s not going to happen.
Trump has shown in a few short days that he can keep the main thing front and center, while keeping a rabid press who loathe him at bay. That’s no small accomplishment for him.
The best I can do as a minor pundit is to keep praying for him and hoping he keeps trying, learning, and getting better. As President Obama encouraged, we should be rooting for him, because Trump is what we’ve got, as Americans, come Jan. 20th.