Reflections Blog

Trump's Triumph . . . for Now

To borrow from Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked:  for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Last night, in a stunning upset, Donald Trump became our new President Elect, and barring anything unforeseen, he will become our nation’s 45th President on January 20, 2017.  Like many people, Democrats and Republicans, I could not imagine a candidate so categorically and demonstrably unfit for the office actually being elected.  But more than 59 million Americans voted for him (fewer than voted for Hillary Clinton, but Trump won the Electoral College). 

The 59 million Americans who voted for Trump voted for change—and change they will get.  But as the sage cautions, “Be careful what you wish for.”

After such an long and brutal campaign, in which we witnessed the very worst of Donald Trump’s character—at least I hope we all saw the worst of him; God forbid there’s more ugliness to come—it’s difficult to imagine that he will rule with the intelligence, judgment, compassion, and equanimity we need in our president.  I could go on about how much Donald Trump doesn’t know (about foreign affairs, world trade, the military, diplomacy, and even the workings of our own government), but I doubt that even the people who voted for him consider him knowledgeable in those areas.  I could talk about his questionable temperament, but we’ve had ample evidence that he is an insecure narcissist who doesn’t listen to anyone, is prone to impulsive decisions, can easily be swayed by praise (from Putin, for instance), and tends to lash out at his opponents viciously and repeatedly.  I could talk about his lack of moral character, but we’ve seen how he speaks about women, Hispanics, and anyone else who is not a privileged white male (like him). 

Sixty percent of Americans agree with me that Donald Trump is unfit for the office, but he’s been elected.  Now we have to live with the consequences of that vote.  And there are always unforeseen and unintended consequences.

What swept Trump into office was a broad range of promises he made that created his populist appeal.  Here, according to Politifact (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jul/15/donald-trumps-top-10-campaign-promises/) are the top ten promises he made:

First, to build a wall along our border with Mexico—and make Mexico pay for it.

Second to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

Third, to bring millions of manufacturing jobs back to America.

Fourth, to impose tariffs on goods made in China and Mexico.

Fifth, to renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

Sixth, to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a market-based alternative that lowers health care costs across the board.

Seventh, to renegotiate the Iran deal.

Eighth, to leave Social Security as it is.

Ninth, to cut taxes on everyone (from 35% at the top to 15%).

Tenth, to defeat ISIS and/or “take the oil” away from ISIS.

An eleventh promise I would add to that list is to put Hillary Clinton in prison.  Trump said he would order his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to try Clinton for her presumed email crimes.  If he really wants to unify the country, this is one promise he should break.  More people voted for her than voted for him, and if he pursues this prosecution he will be seen as punishing his opponent—the way a banana republic dictator would.

He also promised to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, rebuild our inner cities, and reduce crime.  He and his Republican/conservative supporters also plan to stop funding Planned Parenthood (which seems likely to happen since Trump will have a majority in both houses of Congress),reduce government bloat by eliminating “unneeded Federal programs,” rebuild the military significantly (and at great cost), put conservative judges on the Supreme Court, relax or eliminate many Federal regulations (such as those protecting the environment), and reverse Roe vs. Wade, which will eliminate freedom of choice for millions of young women and bring a return of back alley abortions for women who can’t afford to travel to another country if they elect to have that procedure.

All of these are lofty and expensive promises; nonetheless, his base will expect him to fulfill those promises.   That’s why they voted for him. 

But Trump won’t be able to keep all these promises unless he substantially increases the budget deficit and runs our country further into debt.  What he’s promised simply costs too much.  But it was easy for him to make grandiose promises because, in effect, no one held him accountable for them.  Well, that’s not completely fair.  There were groups who challenged what Trump claimed and offered facts as proof that he could not keep all his extravagant promises—but his base and the 59 million Americans who voted for him did not listen. 

Trump has been one of the most Teflon candidates I have ever seen.  I thought when he refused to release his tax returns he would plummet in popularity.  No.  I thought when he denigrated Mexicans and parodied a reporter with disabilities that people would see him for what he is.  No.  I thought that the Access Hollywood video of him talking so cavalierly about sexual assault would effectively end his candidacy.  No.  I thought when people read about his many bankruptcies and the frauds surrounding Trump University and the Trump Foundation they would see him for the phony he is.  No.  Nothing stuck to Trump, which is quite unlike what happened to Hillary Clinton.  Everything stuck to her.  Every lie, every nuance of scandal, every claim that she is corrupt, every damned email.  Trump and his cronies effectively pinned the tail on THAT donkey and made sure it stuck in the minds of the voters.

It’s now the day after the election, and Trump seems to be playing nice at the moment.  He had some gracious words to say about Hillary.  Much of his bluster, bombast, and infantile behavior has disappeared . . . for now.  But has the man’s essential character changed?  We’ll see.  He can afford to be on his best behavior now because he’s won.  He has vanquished every foe.  He will soon sit atop the hill with his hands full of power and the nuclear button at his fingertips.  God help us if the real Donald Trump is just hibernating in this election victory afterglow.  God help us if the worst of his character reemerges the first time he doesn’t get his way (which happens in democracies).  God help us if the vindictive, impulsive, conniving, egotistical Donald Trump decides to vent his frustrations in ways that permanently damage our country and our place in the world.  God help us because 59 million voters wanted change and viewed him as their messiah. 

To them I would say, “Be careful what you wished for.  Don’t kid yourself and think you can bargain with the devil and have him keep his part of the deal.  Because whatever you have sown (by casting your votes), you will now also have to reap (along with the more than 60 million Americans who didn’t vote for Trump).  One significant part of that reaping is a rise in racist activism, as seen in the African-American church in Mississippi that was torched by people who wrote “Vote Trump” on the side of the blackened church.  We have to pray that Trump’s more reckless and racist supporters are not emboldened by his election and decide to take up arms against anyone unlike themselves.

Trump’s triumphant supporters believe they have won a huge victory.  They think the changes Trump promised will all be delivered—and that there’ll be no collateral damage as a result.  Let’s pray they’re right, at least about there being no collateral damage, no unintended consequences.  Let’s pray that in four years the America we love is still intact, that everyone in the country is enjoying security and prosperity, and that the country is unified and at peace with our diversity—and that what many minorities in our country now fear will not have come to pass.  Let’s pray that the Trump voted into office turns out to be a good leader, a wise leader, and a compassionate leader.  God help us if he’s not.

Comments

Miss

Very well said, Terry. As the shocking news begins to sink in, all the potential ramifications bubble up. If this were not enough to digest on the day-after, his identified cabinet selections exacerbate each frightening possibility.

November 10, 2016, 9:29 AM
Mike Speltz

Of all the campaign promises Trump has made, none is more fraught with danger then his promise to "cancel" the Paris agreement on climate change.

November 10, 2016, 12:12 PM
Bruce Hyland

Down here in New Zealand, there is, as elsewhere, shock at Trump's election. Your thoughtful words are a relief to the harsh rhetoric that has ensued over the past year or so. Vested interests in all societies need a shake up from time to time so that they reflect the public sentiment. Shake them too violently without regard to the public though has serious consequences. Let's hope that can be avoided.

Regards to you and our mutual friend Dan

November 10, 2016, 10:04 PM
KFreiberger and LAlthouse

Excellent article, Terry. You've said it the way it is!

November 11, 2016, 6:34 PM
Anna Pool

Thank you for bringing an element of sanity to a completely insane experience.

November 13, 2016, 3:21 PM
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