Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Trump Could Do

In the post election shock wave, there has been plenty of speculation as to what Trump might do, in terms of things which would be [perceived to be] very bad for the country. Much of the speculation is probably overblown, but some it could be on point, and the country could certainly be in for a rough few years.

However, rather than jump on the bandwagon of what horrible things might happen, I figured I'd take a different rhetorical track, and speculate on positive things which could happen. Trump is, in actuality, in a fairly unique position as a president elect, being both relatively unbeholden to special interests, and being historically less partisan than most nominated candidates. He will find himself, in a matter of months, in a fairly unique position, at least in recent memory, and actually capable of accomplishing things which no traditional partisan candidate could hope for. So in that spirit, I'm going to speculate on some things he could do, which could actually turn out really good for the country.

Disclaimer: I don't pretend to think, nor make any representation that I actually believe, that Trump will do any of the things below. I do not believe he is either capable of, or inclined to attempt to do, things which would truly help the country at the risk of his own standing. However, I didn't think Trump had a chance to win the election either, so recent history has once again demonstrated that I certainly could be wrong.

Foreign Affairs

This could be a really easy win for Trump, actually. Coming into office, Trump is an unknown, which is a distinct advantage when dealing with foreign leaders and negotiating deals. As long as Trump doesn't get drawn into a military conflict through ego and/or belligerence, foreign leaders are likely to give him a good amount of slack as they feel him out.

Moreover, you could improve the military situation for the US by simply not doing anything in terms or foreign military interventions. The US has been strained for a while trying to play police-nation for the world, and taking a step back wouldn't be the worst thing. The military-industrial complex has a lot of pull with "institutional" politicians, but Trump could buck that trend, save the country some money in the process, and appease a lot of people who dislike more hawkish foreign policy.

Judicial Appointments

This is another area where Trump could actually be very good for the country. He's in a unique position of being able to nominate people that the Congress would more/less have to approve (or risk alienating their voting base). He could use that position to appoint actual non-partisan, middle of the road type of judges, which would be virtually impossible for any other partisan politician. He could, if inclined, actually foster quite a bit of bipartisan goodwill in this regard, as well as negating one of the primary fears for his presidency, while keeping with his historical political leanings. Moreover, more than most other things, this would have the best chance of creating a positive legacy for himself.

Border Security

I don't know that building walls along the country's borders is a good strategy, but frankly the US could use better border security, and a half-measure here (between campaign rhetoric and doing nothing) would be just about right in terms of magnitude. Scaling back campaign rhetoric into something more achievable would be a marked improvement over Obama's backdoor amnesty, in any case.


Obamacare is a mess, and it needs fixing. I don't know that anything proposed so far (by politicians, anyway) is substantially better, but now that the realities of Obamacare are more apparent to people, most people are going to be on board with "something needs to be done to fix the costs". You'd need to tread carefully, but I think some improvement would be fairly easy, and substantial improvement would at least be possible. This could really be a win for Trump and the GOP together, as long as they don't f it up too bad in the process.

Trade Agreements and the Economy

This is another area where, presumably, Trump's specific knowledge and experience could serve the country well. More than most politicians, Trump could have a reasonable grasp on economic consequences, and how to create and protect jobs for Americans. Yes, this might come at an environmental cost, but with other countries essentially taking advantage of the US anyway in terms of environmental destruction, a little more push back wouldn't be a terrible thing.

LBGT Rights

This is, in my opinion, a sorta hidden victory Trump could have, if he wanted it. Everyone expects Trump to scale-back hard fought rights victories for the LBGT community, per the GOP platform (and certainly per his VP's ideology). But in actuality, the best thing Trump could do here is nothing: just don't take any action on it, claiming (when pressed) that other issues have priority, and you'll get around to it. The truth is that the country will need some time to normalize the changes which happened under the Obama administration anyway, and doing nothing would be an easily defensible strategy in light of other priorities. If nothing happened for 4+ years, no amount of rhetoric is doing to diminish that as a win for people's rights... and that would be great.

Bonus Points: Actual Improvements

Now, at the risk of getting from hopeful speculation into full-on la la land, there are also some things Trump could do with his unique position/opportunity which would actually improve the country (rather than basically just not messing it up like people fear he will). I won't get into too many details here, but here's a very abbreviated list of things which could be actually made tangibly better, if Trump were so inclined:
  • Simplifying the tax code
  • Making Social Security stable and guaranteed (and in private accounts)
  • Changing offshore tax avoidance by multinational corporations to encourage domestic investment
  • [the holy grail] Improving relations among people in the country, to heal some of the internal divisions

Last Thoughts

Will Trump accomplish any of these things? Will he even try? Will his presidency instead be as bad as his opponents fear, or worse? Only time will tell, and quite frankly, I wouldn't bet on the country being better off four years from now. However, I do think it's important to hold out hope for what could be, even if the vision may ultimately be a fleeting fantasy.

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