by Ken Root
On January 20th, there will be a presidential inauguration and a big party in Washington, D.C. It will be the most unlikely set of circumstances and characters since Teddy Roosevelt assumed the office at the beginning of the twentieth century. Donald Trump parallels the populism of another rural hero: William Jennings Bryan. The deal meister won on his first try but Bryan (1860-1925) lost four attempts to gain the presidency. History will record the circumstances that put Mr. Trump in the White House but today no one cares about anything other what he will do while he’s there.
There is no doubt President Elect Trump owes a lot to rural America for electing him. People turned out in mass across the Plains and Midwest. “There was a line to get in to vote,” said one of my college friends who lives in a town that’s hardly a dot on the map. He also owes steel workers and other blue collar trades, plus retirees and a broad assortment of small business owners. All those people now are watching Fox News, reading their daily papers and waiting to see what changes their votes caused.
Speculation runs rampant at this stage, as the stock market is showing. Back in Octoer, the expectation of a Hillary Clinton victory assured investors that things would run as they were for another four year term. When she did not win, the market dropped sharply only to recover, re-examine the future under Trump, and jump over a thousand points on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Who says we have lost hope in America?
However, hope fades if results aren’t seen. Both Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama were swept in on the catch phrase of “Hope”. Reality, eventually set in and that is where we are now with November’s votes and December’s appointments but there is excitement, and hope, as we move toward January’s oath of office.
The initial goal of the president and a Republican Congress, will be to stop the transition to single payer health care. In parallel, will be an effort to stop federal regulation from eliminating fossil fuels and to defend the current food safety programs rather than continue to ratchet up compliance costs for producers.
On the world stage, Mr. Trump will either have a grand performance or a total flop. He says he will renegotiate trade deals from NAFTA to TPP. He will disrupt the Iran trade deal and deny them nuclear power. He will engage Russia’s Vladimir Putin and put our relations back on track. He will confront China’s trade policies and bring them in line with the expectations of U.S. businesses. He will build a wall on our southern border and he will sort through the illegal immigrants in this country and send many of them home.
Take a breath! He’s not going to get all of that done in forty years, let alone four. Any one of those policies going wrong can derail the rest. He is going to have to prioritize and look good to his voters or he will be back in Trump Tower in 2021. It is likely he will take on Russia and China simultaneously. All the tough talk will need to be turned into diplomacy with outcomes that are unknown. China is so tightly linked to us that we may see some concessions. We may also find that China’s long term goals for themselves are like our goals for them. It is possible we could see the Chinese leadership make a deliberate move toward cleaner energy, a stronger currency and more freedom for their people. Those things would make them a better trading partner unless they militarize and start occupying rocks in the South China Sea.
Putin’s Russia is the modern version of the Soviet Union. The land is long on resources but short on human capital. In 1990, it was predicted that it would take sixty-five years for Russian’s to become capitalists. They have great pride, an arsenal and a strong will to survive. If Mr. Trump achieves anything more than a “cool war” with them will be a triumph.
Back home we want the government to get off our backs. It looks like federal agencies will “stand down” on their mission of regulatory advancement. I don’t, however, think they will back up much. Society has expectations for itself. Near the top of the list are clean air and clean water. Since the 1970’s, the government has poured billions of dollars into improving the quality of both precious commodities. The original acts, that produce the Environmental Protection Agency, were not given any real means to measure success. Over time, we found each incremental change cost more money and infringed on more people even though it was addressing long-term objectives. We continue to ask ourselves: “How clean is clean and how pure is pure?”
Will we have more American jobs in the new era? I think this is the “Trump” card. This man is a builder and his ego feeds off seeing concrete examples of his work. The diplomatic relationships he will establish around the world may be the foundation for the next era but they can also be swept away by unknown forces. I think delivering real infrastructure is the key to a stronger America and to his legacy. The Water Resources Development Act, just passed by Congress, may be a vehicle to put thousands to work all along our rivers to upgrade or replace facilities that are obsolete. Per the WRDA bill, major rivers will be beautified, improved for transportation and linked to greater trade with the world. All we need are customers in the deals he plans to make for our grain and manufactured goods.
Finally, what will the Trump presidency do for our moral base? Will he go to church every Sunday and show he is a compassionate conservative? Will he continue to rant, at will, about anything that offends him? I never thought a man with the ego of a teenager on a motorcycle would become President but here we are. He has resolve, intellect and bravado but does he have the judgement not to embarrass the people who elected him? We may find that Congress unites to keep President Trump from stepping too far over the line in his dealings both international and domestic.
Still, I am giddy at the prospects for re-setting the table and allowing another view of the world take center stage. I don’t like the social issues we’ve been obligated to address in the past eight years. I want the working poor to find a way out of poverty but I don’t want to grant special privileges to the alphabet of perverted people. LGBT and Q are letters on my keyboard that I really don’t want to put into another context. Surely, we can all get along without having gender-based discussions dominating our legislatures. For the next four years, let’s focus on US without THEM being a divisive word that separates our society and disrupts our culture.
I suggest that we try to fill in the ditch our politicians have dug and smooth over our differences. Hug a Democrat and let’s make America greater than it ever has been.