Sunday, November 06, 2016

What A Trump Presidency Would Look Like

I suspect a Trump presidency would be worse than many imagine, and not as bad as some imagine.  After Bush v Gore I proposed that there be a cable channel that followed what happened with the actual winner and a channel that created a world in which the other won.  I'd really like the Trump supporters to see what a Trump-led US would really look like.  But neither candidate will actually be able to do much until members of Congress start breaking bread with members across the aisle again.

But here's a bit of prognostication based on what we do know about Trump.

Preface:  I’ve done a several posts about Donald Trump and what makes him tick.  There’s a post about his father and grandfather. There’s the post about his mentor, Roy Cohn.  And we’ve all seen his behavior on the campaign trail.  Using that history, I think we can predict how he will behave as president.  We can’t predict specific actions, but I think we can predict the kinds of actions he’s likely to take.  What he actually does will depend on events, on other people, and on Trump’s ability to figure out how to make the US government apparatus work.

So, let’s start with his world view that underlies why he does what he does.  (A lot can be seen in his relationship with his father and with his brother who did not live up to his father’s ideal and thus was Donald’s first and closest example of a loser.  See the post on his father.)

Then we’ll look at the sorts of behaviors this world view leads to.

Finally, I’ll give some examples of those behaviors once Trump gains the White House.  

Trump’s World View:

  • Power is everything.
  • Life is a long poker session and while you're going to lose a few games, at the end of the night you want to go home a winner.   Poker is about bluffing.  Poker-face means being able to lie without people reading your thoughts.  Honesty is a handicap in poker.  You can call people all sorts of vile names during the game yet go home as friends.
  • The worst thing you can be is a loser.  Losers are contemptible.  Not being a loser is one of Trump’s key motivations to have power.  To do or say whatever to have power.  And he trashes his opponents. And when he doesn’t have power, he at least has to look like he does.   (Would those missing tax returns show us he isn't as wealthy as he claims?)
  • With power he can do whatever he likes with impunity.  Rules don’t matter if you have power.  Reward and punishment are the basic tools.  
    • You do favors for people who can help you.  You try to stay nice as long as they have something you need - prestige, support for your projects, fulfillment of your lusts.  You can take what you want from the less powerful and they don’t have the power to do anything about it.  You can take the women you want.  You can stiff contractors because  taking you to court will cost them more than walking away. You can pay off the rule makers, such as politicians,  to bend the law to your will.  
    • But if they don’t cooperate, you punish them.  
  • You hire lawyers to fix what you’ve broken.  Lawyers, don’t simply defend you, they are also attack dogs to destroy those who cross you.

Trump’s behavior based on his need to be the most powerful.

The need to appear powerful means:

  • Honesty is a handicap.  He says whatever makes him look good.  He denies all allegations of  wrong doing.   He lies about opponents.   The only truth is Trump power.  Facts that don't support him are lies.
  • The center of attention is the best place to be.
  • Promoting his private interests and fulfilling his needs are the basic goals.
  • Putting the Trump name on everything he owns and even things he doesn’t own.
  • Attack, counterattack, never apologize. (See post on Roy Cohn.)

Trump as President

Applying  his world view and the behaviors they lead to, we can anticipate the kinds of things he's likely to do as president.

Center of attention - Winning the presidency will assure this goal for as long as he holds the presidency - which could be briefly for any number of reasons, or, if he has his way, could be for his lifetime.

He’ll want to be seen with the world’s most powerful leaders.  Putin may well be the first one to be feted at the White House.  Watch for opulent displays of power and wealth with the rich and famous and powerful leaders of the world.

We can be sure his new Washington DC hotel will be the center of inaugural events as much if not more than the White House itself.   And we can assume that he will totally remodel the White House. Maybe a White Trump Tower?

The Trump name:  Look for the Trump name to appear on the White House and Air Force One.  If he can figure out a way to change  the name of the country to Trump’s United States of America, he will.  Maybe it will be on all passports.  On money.  On all signs for government buildings and national parks. How about Trump’s United States Marines?

Promoting his private interests, particularly his wealth:

Look for changes in the law that help Trump, starting with income taxes and deregulation.  He would find it useful to delete all the records of federal agencies that have records about him.  Again the IRS comes to mind and the court system.

He’ll want to make government properties available to his real estate empire.  Or make arrangements that benefit him for other businesspeople to take over government property.  He'll be privatizing agencies and land.  He might want to make National Parks into Trump resorts.  As with his campaign, he'll have the government contract with various Trump businesses.  When challenged on this, he'll say he's saving the country money and attack the challengers.  

Attack, Counterattack, Never Apologize

Nixon had an enemies list.  It will look tame compared to Trump's list.  It will have anyone who has blocked his path toward something he wanted,  anyone who mentioned his small hands or didn't do his bidding fast enough.   Top on the list are the media who can expose his lies and constantly make his life miserable.  He’s already promised to change the libel laws.  He’ll change whatever laws he can to stop the media from saying bad things about him.

Those who block his policies will suffer merciless attacks in all the ways we’ve seen on the campaign, plus whatever levers of government power he gets access to.  Republicans (Paul Ryan is toast) and Democrats who stand up to him will be subject to withering attacks, both visible and behind the scenes.  Comey will become the new J. Edgar Hoover, using the FBI as Trump’s private mafia.  If Comey doesn’t cooperate, there will be a new FBI chief quickly.

The first foreign leaders - including terrorist leaders - to belittle Trump, will see massive retaliation.  If they are white, western nations, there will be vitriol and threats of economic sanctions.  If they are part of the rest of the world, don’t be surprised to see Trump USA Air Force jets unleashed on them.

Surprises that shouldn’t be surprises

Given that Trump sees life as a game of negotiations, lots of what he's promised on the campaign is just bluffing.  Not everything will go as many expect.

The Clinton's - Since Trump’s world is a series of poker games, once he wins, the election will be over.  All the anti -Clinton talk was bluster to win the election.  All he's charged her with, he'd do himself.  It was just competitive trash talking.  If he can find the Clintons and their foundation and allies useful, he could be gracious to them and find ways to use them to increase his own power.

The Wall - I’m guessing there will be a symbolic move to start a wall along the Mexican border, but it might eventually evolve into a border-walk of casinos and hotels and a revised border patrol mission to help businesses get cheap labor and make deals with wealthy foreigners who can help the Trump mission.

Trump Supporters - They’ll continue to be fed Trump’s racist, sexist, nationalist, anti-semitic rhetoric, but other than that, their lives won’t be better.  He was nice to them while he needed them.  To the extent that he will need them for his next terms, he’ll feed them the lies they love.  He'll rant to them about those blocking his reforms.   But he has no real interest in them other than what they can do for him and he has no idea of how to actually improve their lives.  Trump’s tax plans will cripple   the economy and the hollowness of making America great again will become obvious.  Except for the very, very rich.  But even they will be vulnerable to a failing economy.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  These are the things that Trump would like to do if he could.  But I imagine he'll find the combined resistance of the Clinton supporters and the establishment Republicans he's displaced, of the bureaucracy which is intended to slow down despots, of the courts, and of women and  people of color will be overwhelming.   And don't forget the rest of the world.  Even his supporters will eventually figure out they've been had.

Preferably, Clinton will win and the Trump presidency can be the basis of cable television series.


  1. He should never at any time have been given any credence whatsoever.

    He deserves even less now.

  2. The American Republic should survive Trump's efforts to become its first Emperor. He is, after all, no Caesar.

    We shall soon see how it all plays out. All the best.

  3. What is most worrying is the lack of rationality shown by so many of his following. This inability to weigh up the implications of a decision either way, to reject any evidence that conflicts with one's own prejudices, seems to be increasing on both sides of the Atlantic. E.g. in U.K. many so many of the Brexiters still fail to understand that they cannot reject immigration and maintain economic standards.
    Critical thinking, qualified by the ability to empathise, should be integral to education in both U.S. and U.K. In the case of the latter, the curriculum is increasingly instrumental, the study of the humanities more undervalued. So populism thrives at the expense of true democracy.


  4. Oxo, Jacob, Doug,

    Maybe this election will lead to questioning the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education. These things are great, but we also need to teach basic literacy and critical thinking skills. But believing what they want to believe happens on both sides. I just checked a meme purporting to be Trump's words from People Magazine in 1998. Totally fake. Or was the fact check a Russian made fake website?

  5. It's the election of false equivalence.

    From the lowliest blogger to the New York Times and all the media in between, Trump should have been summarily dismissed from the get go.

    Since that didn't happen and everyone just lowered the bar and treated him like some kind of equal, this is what we get.

    The blame, not that that matters now, lies with anyone who gave him a shred of credence. Not sure that can be fixed, idiocy has now been normalized.

  6. Dear All

    I only wish idiocy were the excuse. I fear we are witness to the resurrection of a politic we thought defeated in the 20th century.

    Steve, I don't feel much safer here in London.


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