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Weiss: Can Our Nation Survive President-Elect Trump & the GOP’s Control of Capitol Hill?

Monday, January 09, 2017

 

Almost two months ago when GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump trounced his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and his party took control of both chamber of Congress. Trump’s surprising victory stunned both voters and political commentators and pundits covering the heated presidential race.  According to a November 16, 2016 Gallup Poll, 80 percent of Trump’s voters are “excited,” while 76 percent of Clinton’s voters say they are “afraid.”  A large majority of the respondents (75 percent) shared one reaction: “surprise.”

Days after the tumultuous election, Darrell M. West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Washington, D.C.-based the Brookings Institution, penned his thoughts about how president-elect Trump might govern the divided nation.  His posting, “Four Scenarios for a Trump Presidency,” can be found on the Brooking’s FixGov blog, written on November 14, 2016. 

Speculating on Trump’s White House Governance

In his 1,286 word blog, West, an American author, political scientist, pollicalcommentator who formerly taught political science at Brown University for 26 years, says that Trump might choose to govern as a traditional Republican endorsing tax cuts, deregulation and repealing Obamacare.  Like other GOP politicians he would call for reinstituting law and order, fighting ISIS and other extremist militant groups, and controlling illegal immigration from coming into this country. “These typical GOP positions might resolve his philosophical differences on “entitlement reform and free trade,” says West, an author or co-author of 22 books.  

Trump just might even turn over the reins of the presidency to Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, says West, these individuals “becoming the de facto prime minister.”

According to West, like president-elect Trump did during the presidential campaign, he might take on the role of a “popular rogue.”  A “populist Trump could break conventional political rules and “attack the political establishment to represent the little guy,” notes West’s blog posting.

West also suggests that Trump might ultimately fail as president.  After all he lost the popular vote by 2 percentage points or nearly three million votes and alienated women, millennials, minorities and immigrants with his insulting comments.  Scandals and disclosures about his personal behavior and continuing concerns about serious financial conflicts of interest could derail his “honeymoon” phase at the beginning of his presidential term and negatively impact his popularity ratings, he says.

West also speculates in his blog that policy backlashes due to millions losing health care coverage by his push to repeal Obamacare, privatizing Medicare or gutting Social Security, a slow-down in the economy or even Trump’s continued liking of Russian President Vladimir Putin, might make him a one term president, like President Jimmy Carter. 

Finally, public outcry and violent protest may turn Trump into an authoritarian leader. If this happens West expresses concerns smear campaigns (waged by White House Strategist Steve Bannon), the use of federal agencies to “attack adversaries” and the use of local police to “crack down” on protestors. “Firing top intelligence officials would suggest that Trump wants compliant people who will do his bidding against foreign and domestic adversaries,” he says.

Big Changes with the GOP in Charge

“It is a scary time in American politics,” says West, who expects to see big changes on Capitol Hill in 2017.  The Brookings political pundit predicts that a Trump White House with a GOP controlled Congress will tackle large tax cuts, corporate tax reform, repealing Obamacare (but not having anything to replace it with), and reversing the Dodd Frank financial regulation bill.  With the Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress he does not expect gridlock during the first six months of the 115th Congress. 

West predicts that in the long-run many of the GOP president and Republican Congressional leadership policy initiatives will be problematic. “They are governing as if they have a clear mandate even though they lost the popular vote, he says.

West, like some political observers, expect many of the GOP’s conservative policy proposals to hurt the people who voted for Trump. The tax cuts go disproportionately to the top one percent and proposed changes in Medicare and Medicaid will limit medical care, he said.

“In a couple of years, the economy probably will be much weaker than it is today, which will undermine the very rationale of Trump's candidacy,” says West, noting that if this happens the newly elected president could have a 30 percent job approval rating by 2018. “Of course, that is when he really will become dangerous! The risk is he may try things to improve his poll numbers, such as identifying scapegoats or confronting adversaries,” warns West. 

“GOP Congressional leaders have plans to privatize Medicare and block grant Medicaid to the states. This will impose limitations on medical care and make it more difficulty for needy people to get the help they need,” adds West, who also sees Republicans moving to reduce home care and medical assistance to America’s elderly.

West sees the “GOP legislative initiatives as being very contentious politically, and will reinforce perceptions of the GOP as cold and heartless [to Americans].” 

“Democrats will not be able to pass legislation. Their main power will be trying to block things they don’t like or stop nominations at confirmation hearings that they find problematic,” says West, noting that they will be put in a defensive posture.  “They will seek to protect certain gains made during the Obama administration. However, Congressional Democratic leadership may well be able to work together on infrastructure investments,” he says. 

West believes that Trump’s fix for the economy will not work. “In the longer-run, there is a risk that inflation will go up. Interest rates already have risen in anticipation of this,” he says.

“The market is expecting Trump to spend a lot of money and not be able to corral spending by the same amount. That will increase deficits and drive up inflation. It will be hard to blame this on Democrats since there has been low inflation for years now. It will be pretty obvious that GOP policies are responsible for the rate increases,” West adds.

Democrats Mobilize, Video Sends Message to Congress

As president-elect Trump’s inauguration approaches, President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill last week to urge Congressional Democrats to block the GOP president and the Republican Congressional leadership’s efforts to dismantle Obamacare, the outgoing president’s signature healthcare reform law and to fight their legislative policy initiatives.  Behind closed doors Obama urged Democratic lawmakers to not “rescue” the Republicans by passing replacement measures.  He suggested calling the GOP’s new plan, “Trumpcare,” to ensure that they are held responsible for any disruptions in health coverage.  At press time there seems to be no GOP health care plan to consider.

After Obama’s meeting Democrats lawmakers have begun using the phrase, “Make America Sick Again, tying into Trump’s wildly recognized campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again.”

Hollywood is moving to block Trump’s policy initiatives. Almost a week ago documentarian Liz Garbus 

unveiled her one minute and 49 second video (#StandUpForUS), released by Humanity for Progress, to urge Congress to block any legislative initiatives pushed by Trump and his GOP allies that attack groups he marginalized during last year’s presidential campaign.  Celebrities and activists lined up to participate in this video. They included Rosie Perez, Keegan-Michael Key, Tavi Gevinson, Lea Delaria, Sally Field, Steve Buscemi, Zoe Kazan, Jeffrey Wright, and Janet Mock, among others.

“The majority of Americans, regardless of who they voted for, did not vote for racism, for sexism, or for xenophobia. And yet Donald Trump won,” notes the video. At the end of the video, viewers are asked to email the video to members of Congress, as well as to sign a petition on www.MoveOn.org, to resist Trump and the GOP agenda,

Stay Tuned

The aftermath of the 2017 presidential election has politically split our nation.  Although Trump won the Electoral College, Clinton, the former secretary of state, pulled in over 64 million votes.  Even without a clear legislative mandate President-elect Trump and Republican Congressional leadership are moving at a quick pace to make major policy and systemic changes during the first 100 days of the 115th Congress.  Democrats are now forced to play the loyal opposition for the next four years and fight against GOP policies rammed through the legislative process.  Will GOP legislative fixes push American in the right direction?  Or will the nation survive these changes?  Stay tuned.

Herb Weiss, LRI’12 is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. To purchase “Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly,” a collection of 79 of his weekly commentaries, go to herbweiss.com.

 

Related Slideshow: Trump in Worcester

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump fans like this young supporter made signs of their own to show their support for the Donald. They could be seen dotting the line waiting to enter the DCU Center.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

For Trump fans that left their gear at home, there was nothing to fear. Vendors took advantage of the passionate crowd, lining up near the entrances and selling buttons, hats and t-shirts like this one.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Star-spangled gear could be seen often outside and inside of the DCU Center. This Trump supporter really worse his love for the Donald on his sleeve.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

It wasn't all good cheer for Donald Trump. Protestors lined the streets near the entrance of the DCU Center, and could be hear chanting various anti-Trump sentiments.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

This young man's pants left no doubt. He is a big fan of two things—Donald Trump, and the United States of America.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

These four Trump fans wore their support proudly on their chest, and they weren't the only ones. Many fans could be seen sporting Trump hats, shirts, buttons and more as they filed into the DCU Center.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

These two said they were proud to support Donald Trump in his bid for the Presidency.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

You could call this protestor a "one-issue voter." He mixed calls for the return of his favorite discontinued soft drink in with chants criticizing Trump's immigration stance.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

For these Trump fans, it was a family affair. The whole bunch turned out to support their favorite candidate.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

The cold weather didn't bother this Trump fan. He said he decided to purchase a Donald Trump-branded jacket or sweatshirt inside the DCU Center.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

These two Trump fans were "red"-y to see their hero in action!

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

These clever protestors turned Donald Trump's famous catchphrase around on him. 

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

There were plenty of young fans on hand for Donald Trump's speech in Worcester. These two made their feelings on Trump, and his immigration stance, very clear.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump had the chance to see him name up in lights on the DCU Center jumbo-screen. It must have been quite the thrill!

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Donald Trump made his entrance at roughly 7:30 PM to nearly deafening applause. He paused for a moment to soak it all in.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump walked confidently to the podium after being introduced as the large crowd cheer and chanted his name.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump fans inside were loud, and cheered the Donald often. They also made sure to snap their own photos of their favorite candidate while they had the chance.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump fans in Massachusetts came from near and far to get a glimpse of Donald Trump live and in person.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Standing room only—the DCU Center was nearly filled with supporters who got on their feet early and stayed there for most of Trump's hour-long speech.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Even inside the DCU Center, Trump could not escape the protestors. These unhappy attendees attracted a lot of attention, but were whisked out of the arena by security after only a few seconds.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump said time and time again to the crowd gathered in Worcester that he would "make America great again" through smart immigration and trade policies.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump said he was glad to be in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and pleased fans by talking about the greatness of hometown hero Tom Brady.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump was all smiles when one of his jokes drew big laughs from the crowd of supporters.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

Trump supporters chanted his famous slogan, "make America great again," before, during and after his speech at the DCU Center.

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Donald Trump at the DCU Center

When Donald Trump finally finished his speech, he drew the loudest applause of the night. Fans waved signs, chanted his name and tried desperately to snap one last photo of their departing hero.

 
 

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