Donald Trump pulled off a huge (or should I say yuge) upset Tuesday night when he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He will become the oldest President elected in U.S. history. This has sent a panic throughout Washington, Wall Street, and the lives of many everyday Americans. Will Trump make good on some of his more outrageous policies, such as building a wall, mass deportations, increasing surveillance, and bringing back torture? Or will Trump be restrained by Congress or a military unwilling to commit war crimes?
During his campaign, Trump made populist appeals to stop unfair trade deals and put an end to nation building overseas. He said he was going to shake up Washington and drain the swamp of corruption. Trump was able to energize evangelicals despite his crude manners. His ability to connect with white working class voters helped seal the deal for him. Like with Brexit, the national media seriously underestimated Trump’s appeal.
President-elect Trump’s rumored picks for his Cabinet send a different tone for someone who calls himself an outsider. NBC News reports that Newt Gingrich is a leading contender for Secretary of State, Rudy Giuliani for attorney general, former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin for treasury secretary, and General Michael Flynn for secretary of defense. Trump may also include disgraced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in his Cabinet.
Not exactly a group of people who will shake things up or stop corruption. Trump himself told CNN in 2009 that he was for the bank bailout. He has bragged in the past about not honoring his business contracts. Reuters has reported Trump is considering oil and gas magnate Harold Hamm as energy secretary. Hamm is an advocate of fracking, and Trump’s proposed energy policies have alarmed environmentalists.
General Flynn is every bit as radical as Trump and has fanned the flames of Islamophobia. Flynn once told Al-Jazeera we were at war with Islam. Giuliani as a potential attorney general is also troubling. Giuliani has not only made bigoted comments about Mexicans, he is also a proponent of the unconstitutional stop and frisk policy.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence has supported policies to roll back reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights. The Indiana Governor has restricted abortion access, slashed Planned Parenthood funding, and signed a bill that allowed Indiana businesses to discriminate against gay people. While Trump is cast as a vulgar womanizer, Pence is a Bible thumping hardline conservative. Pence will likely have a big say in potential Supreme Court vacancies in a Trump administration.
Antiwar Americans have held out some hope that Trump would put an end to unpopular wars, regime change, and nation building. Trump’s proposal that we get along with Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of his most sensible ideas. He disagreed with his running mate and Clinton on implementing a no-fly zone in Syria. During his presidential campaign, he said he was against the Iraq War and intervention in Libya.
However, Trump has also said that he would bomb our enemies. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Trump refused to rule out using nuclear weapons. Trump told Howard Stern that he supported the Iraq War in 2002, and agreed with Clinton in 2011 on regime change in Libya. He accepted endorsements from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Trump has also surrounded himself with neoconservative warmongers such as Guiliani, Gingrich, Pence, and Christie.
While Trump is sensible in not wanting to start World War III with Russia, he supports policies that could lead to a major war. He has campaigned on ending the Iranian nuclear deal. The Daily Mail reports Trump said he would attack Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf if provoked. He has also proposed starting a trade war with China. With his temperament, that could turn into a hot war.
One of the biggest concerns about a Trump presidency is his temperament and judgment. He refused to release his taxes and reportedly did not pay any income taxes the past 20 years. Is their information in his taxes that would leave him compromised? Will he still be allowed to send out late night tweets as a President that could cause actual damage to this country? He will not come close to having the dignity Obama had, and makes George W. Bush look like Socrates. Trump has bragged about bribing politicians in the past, so it is not a stretch to say he could be bribed if the price is right.
Trump has said that he can cut taxes, increase military spending, and still balance the budget. He says that he is going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but offers little specifics on what will replace it. He has very few detailed policy proposals, and some of the ones he has are ridiculous. Trump still claims that he can make Mexico pay for a border wall, even after being told multiple times by the Mexican government they will not.
What is needed more than ever is checks and balances on the Presidency? The Obama and Bush presidencies have both greatly expanded the power of the executive branch. Congress no longer votes on rather we go to war or not. The NSA and other federal agencies are allowed to collect Americans electronic metadata without a warrant. The Patriot Act has become permanent, and are police often look militarized. Both Bush and Obama disregarded court rulings that went against their policies. The Obama administration has used the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers more than all the Presidents since Woodrow Wilson.
An egomaniac like Trump could abuse his power in a way that makes Bush and Obama look like saints. Will Trump use the Patriot Act, FBI, and CIA to go after his political enemies? Obama had a drone strike kill list that he personally approved. What kind of strikes will a thin skinned person like Trump order?
Trump voters wanted to blow up the system, and it will be hard to unify the country after that. He obviously appealed to a segment of the country that felt like the government betrayed them. Unfortunately, his extreme nationalism has unfortunately empowered the bigots of this country. Will Trump be able to heal the wounds of this election? Is he the deal maker he claims to be? It’s hard to tell. This is a man that was once a Democrat and has changed parties five times since the 1980s according to the Washington Post. It is truly up in the air what he will do once he assumes office. Hopefully, he avoids the authoritarian impulses he showed during his campaign.
Congress must put the brakes on Trump if his agenda to make America great again becomes radical. Good thing that Trump is hated by Democrats and not very well liked by Republicans in Congress. Trump actually lost the popular vote and will be on a short leash. The threat of impeachment must be held over Trump’s head should he try to govern like he campaigned. The Presidency is not a reality TV show, but a position of great power and responsibility.