By the time this article is published, either the most awaited or unawaited presidency, depending on your point of view, will have begun.
Trump’s loyal supporters believe he will initiate sweeping, long-overdue changes; his most ardent detractors fear he will take us down the road to fascism.
For certain, we are in for a wild ride, but I do not believe President Trump (can’t believe I am typing those two words together) will be able to wave a magic wand and have his way across the board. This is a guy who did not have a majority of his own party behind him. His victory was more about the other candidate’s problems.
A Washington Post/ABC poll showed his favorability rating on the eve of taking office as 40%. That does not signal a honeymoon; an impending divorce is more like it, a nasty one at that.
Without a broad consensus behind him, Congress will not rubber-stamp much of Trump’s agenda, assuming he really has one other than poorly defined tweeting points.
So one should not expect broad support for any of his plans beyond the selection of a new Supreme Court judge. That’s a big one, but the High Court has always ebbed and flowed between conservative and liberal influence. It’s been that way for a few decades. There’s always a wild card, too, like Justice Kennedy. Let’s not forget that Chief Justice Roberts saved Obamacare. You just never know.
I anticipate we will have a balanced court, unless one of the liberal judges retires during Trump’s term. It is unlikely any of them will retire during a first term. It would take a Scalia-type departure for another vacancy on the left side of the bench.
What about a wall across our southern border?
I think you might see some segments constructed in strategic locations, but funding will be a problem for any lengthy stretch. It will be more show than substance. The repercussions will give Republican lawmakers pause.
But there will be some extensive changes to immigration policy, some of which will be embraced. Take for example tightened restrictions on H-1B visas. Even there, Trump will learn that this abused program can only be throttled back so far, because our schools are not turning out enough STEM talent to meet the demands of science and industry.
A beefed-up Border Patrol is one practical objective many will support. The members of the USBP save lives and interdict dangerous criminals. Unlike a wall, they offer a flexible response for dealing with illegal immigration. Walls cannot make arrests or render assistance to those challenging the hostile terrain which exists over a vast swath of the border.
Government environmental regulations will be reduced, but to what degree depends on popular support. A majority of our citizens do care deeply about the environment. People depend on it for recreation, comfort, health and a safe food and water supply. If they feel the environment is significantly threatened, they will push back in noticeable numbers, enough to turn up the political heat in Congress.
A reduction in corporate taxes is almost a certainty. However, it will be a balancing act between what it will take to bring offshore earnings back home and avoiding the appearance of catering to Wall Street. And no politician wants the Wall Street label to stick. This could be the biggest battle Congress faces, one in which Trump will have the least influence for fear of alienating blue collar workers, the very constituency that helped push him over the top in the election.
The greatest uncertainty involves international relations. A president has wide leeway in deploying or redeploying troops. Some would argue he has the power to terminate a treaty without the consent of Congress. The Constitution is not specific on this subject.
Most certainly, Trump could effectively undermine NATO by pulling resources from it, turning the alliance into a mere shell.
How about a trade agreement such as NAFTA?
NAFTA is a congressional-executive agreement, not a real treaty. There are no rules as to who can terminate one, so it would appear Trump could pull out over the objections of Congress.
In the end, for Trump’s policies to prevail, he needs broad support from both Congress and the public.
You do not earn broad support with provocative remarks in social media. Think of the number of people who are unfriended on Facebook because of their relentless partisan posts and memes.
The Tweeter-in-Chief will have more to lose than gain in his use of the internet. People just might unvote him.