Setting Modest Goals for a Trump Presidency

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight David Eisenhower

I’ve seen quite a bit of banter since the election about the way things will be under a Trump presidency. The Right believes that things will be great – that Trump will undo the “bad deals” of the Obama era and lead us toward brighter days. The Left believes that Trump will abandon everything he campaigned on and work to enrich his friends.

I think a safer path is to set more modest goals, more reasonable outcomes, and judge the “success” based on those. Consider, for instance, my two goals from years ago for the Obama presidency. The first was that an African American presidency would improve race relations, bringing blacks into the mainstream of American politics (just as the Kennedy presidency did for Catholics, and the Carter presidency did for southerners). The second, was that Obama’s support for a college football playoff would indeed result in the end of the BCS.

Here’s where I would say “one out of two ain’t bad” – but the four team playoff we currently have isn’t quite what I had hoped – we need eight teams at least. So perhaps it’s more of a “0.75 out of 2 ain’t bad” … or maybe it is.

The point is, the Right will be less disappointed if they set reasonable goals, and the Left will be less outraged at every little thing if they set the bar low and look for tangible measures. There will always be time to give a reactionary flail about all of the things that are bound to happen over the next four (or eight!) years. At least we have a playoff.

So what would “good” look like? I have some thoughts …

  • The repeal of Obamacare. Whether you like universal healthcare or individual liberty (i.e. make your own decisions about healthcare), it’s hard to deny that Obamacare is a disaster. A bill written by insurance company lobbyists mandating that everybody has to buy insurance … what could go wrong?
  • Monetary freedom (or at least a step in that direction). I doubt we’ll see the end of the Fed in the next presidency, but perhaps we’ll see capital gains taxes go away (i.e., people can store their excess production in any asset form they choose without loss).
  • Shakeup of the status quo. The current “deep state” grafting order has it far too easy. I’m not saying that I think Trump will end the “access” of the corporate-fascists, merely that the deal-maker-in-chief won’t keep the simple-as-can-be nepotistic gravy train rolling. He’ll demand more before he gives them what they want. That’s likely a good thing.

Perhaps I’m a bit too hopeful. Does anything really change for the better? Do we ever really see an upending of the power structures? Obama was “hope and change” – but he just turned out to be a servant of the machine. Bush was “compassionate conservatism” – but he just turned out to be a servant of the machine.

Will Trump end the same way? Probably. He promised to drain the swamp. We’ll see. I think it safer to set more modest goals. If we could just take baby steps away from oppression of the many for the purposes of the privileged, then that would be a worthwhile adventure.

I’m reminded of a scene out of The Great White Hype, where a boxing commission member (Cheech Marin) uncovered some dirt on his “boss” – the promoter (Samuel L. Jackson – the Don King type character). Marin lays out his information and the conversation goes roughly like this:

Marin: “I’ve got this dirt on you”

Jackson: “So what do you want? Money, sex, drugs?”

Marin: “Not good enough this time”

Jackson: “What then? Power???”

Marin: “Yeah – power”

Jackson: “You’re fired”

Marin: “OK, OK, OK – drugs, sex and money”

Marin thought he had something that could change the equation. He realized quickly that he didn’t when Jackson threatened to fire him.

Politicians have generally been a dime a dozen since Reagan. They promise this, that, and the other – but they all seem to roll over for the “deep state” interests. This time around, the deep state, the machine, came out big time for Hillary Clinton and lost. Trump is in position to change the equation, to demand something more. He’s also (I suspect) a good enough negotiator to know it.

I can’t even tell you right now what that would look like – but I’ll certainly be looking for it.

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