Donald Trump is despicable on so many levels. Most (perhaps all) of his values are abhorrent. His language is coarse and offensive. His behavior is disgusting and crude. He’s a race-baiter and hate-monger. His temperament is ill-suited for the presidency (or, for that matter, any role requiring a modicum of civility). He’s a pathological liar. Simply put, Vera, if you came home with a boyfriend like Mr. Trump, I’d wonder where we (your parents and everyone else who played a role in your life) went wrong.
But there is one thing I like about him. He’s a doer. He tries to get something done.
The reason that’s important is, we desperately need to get something done in this country. Opportunity for most Americans has been shriveling on the vine for decades now. Only the very top of the socioeconomic pyramid has been doing well.
Communities have hollowed out. Men past the prime of their careers have been kicked to the street. Students have gone deeply into debt ($1.4 trillion and growing). Debilitating drug use is no longer a street corner thing, or something that plagues only “the other side of the tracks.” For heaven’s sake, even the death rate has been rising for certain demographics!
Meanwhile, our fiscal condition, both at the federal and state levels, continues to erode. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our investment in basic research is declining. Most people can’t afford to educate their kids or to pay the dentist or doctor. And God forbid they ever require a hospital. Social Security and Medicare are barreling to a fiscal cliff.
And the fact of the matter is, the establishment political parties and candidates are basically useless when it comes to solving any of this. I can’t think of a president in the past quarter century or more, or a traditional candidate of a major political party during that time, who seemed to fully understand the problem and be committed to changing anything except the window dressing.
They were too busy raising money and then placating all the donors who put them into office and whose continuing support they thought they needed to stay there. The workers of America no longer had anyone looking out for them.
And, to be fair, we were too busy treating politics like a blood sport or a reality TV show and did our fair part in the dumbing down of America. In other words, we got fat and lazy.
And then came Mr. Trump. He may be fat, but he ain’t lazy.
I could never bring myself to vote for such a person. But I do like a few of the things he’s done or has tried to do (or at least highlighted as being problems). And, most of all, I like the fact he’s trying to get something done.
The problem, of course, is that he often doesn’t know what to do, so he flails. And in his flailing, he only makes things worse. And undermines his support and any chance he has to build his base and garner support for any of his initiatives that require legislation.
So, will he make any real progress with jobs and in reforming a trade policy that destroyed Johnstown but enriched Wall Street? I doubt it. But at least he’s not status quo. At least someone is finally challenging conventional wisdom and policies designed to enrich capital at the expense of labor.
Will he reform the tax code in a transformative way that dismantles disincentives, encourages the efficient deployment of capital, gives equal weight to labor and removes many of the hidden subsidies that enrich the elite? The early returns aren’t encouraging, but at least the president isn’t wedded to the same old system.
Will he rid the system of growth and entrepreneur-suffocating regulations that were well intended but installed and maintained by people who don’t understand incentive systems and the law of unintended consequences? Probably, but it looks like he may end up throwing the baby out with the bath water, too.
Will he reverse the neocon-driven foreign policy of his predecessors and stop interjecting America into everyone’s business around the world? Apparently not, despite his campaign promises to the contrary. The embedded power of the neocons is proving to be too powerful even for Mr. Trump. One of his mistakes was surrounding himself with so many generals.
Will he reform the deeply flawed ObamaCare and help make quality health care affordable for the average American? Apparently not. He simply is devoid of ideas and, moreover, doesn’t even seem to grasp the issues deeply enough to help devise a solution.
So, even though I like the fact Mr. Trump is anti-status quo and at least tries to deal with some long standing problems that, if left unaddressed, will become only weightier anchors around America’s ankles, I do think he’ll fail. The despicable part is part of the problem. The power of inertia is another. His cognitive limitations are another. His over confidence in his own power and abilities is yet another.
What’s going for him is his remarkable powers of persuasion and sales abilities. He did, after all, manage to get himself elected. Yet, not surprisingly, governing is proving to be something all together different.
Of course, the forces that got him elected will not simply evaporate, even if Mr. Trump himself does. Consequently, my fear — indeed, the nightmare scenario that I think is quite possible — is that the future will bring something far worse than Donald J. Trump.
I remind your grandmother from time to time, Vera, that if she thinks Mr. Trump is so bad (and she does, as do I), just wait because what’s coming down the line could be even worse.
And, based on where we’re headed, I think the odds are pretty high that worse is coming. You simply can’t hold a democracy together in the 21st century with the gross disparity and injustice we’ve allowed to develop.
America was sold on the American dream. But it’s dawning on America that the dream has turned into a nightmare. But they want it back.
As Ray Dalio recently pointed out in an essay well worth reading, “the wealth of the top one-tenth of 1% of the population is about equal to that of the bottom 90% of the population, which is the same sort of wealth gap that existed during the 1935-40 period.”
Yet everyone gets a vote.
We know what happened in the 30s. And the early 40s. What we don’t know yet is how this unsustainable situation will play itself out over the next 10 to 20 years.
It started with Donald J. Trump. How will it end?
There are a lot of angry people out there. And for good reason. My fear is that Mr. Trump the president will be unable to assuage them. And his failure may even result in an exponential increase in anger. Or, in an effort to save his presidency, that Mr. Trump will lead us into another major war. Everyone — even Mr. Trump — knows that there is nothing like a war to make people forget their problems and support their leaders.
I hope it doesn’t come to that. And it doesn’t have to. But even if it doesn’t, the pressures will build and find some other way to be released.
Tighten your seatbelt, America. The ride is only going to get rougher.