Make America good again
November 11, 2016
Well, that was interesting. After enduring the ugliest, most obnoxious political campaign for eighteen months, Election Day came. The results weren't what I had in mind, but to be honest, neither outcome would have made me happy. It would have been great to elect a woman president after all these years; I just had a different woman in mind. Clinton was the entrenched establishment in a season when the mood was to blow things up in Washington and start over.
The idea of electing somebody who is prepared to blow things up was appealing. I just had a different bomb-thrower in mind. Trump is coarse, boorish, and, well, Trump. But he's president elect now. Gulp.
Historians and political scientists will be studying this one for generations. Nobody took Trump seriously when he entered the race and started demolishing16 other candidates who all looked more plausible than Trump. We were shocked by his tone and demeanor and laughed at his childish presentation. And now he won. That's serious.
The popular vote was essentially a tie. Clinton won 100,000 more votes out of a total of 120 million. The way the electoral votes landed, it looks like a substantial Trump win. But the system wasn't rigged. He won. I don't recall seeing protests in the streets over a US election (well, maybe when Al Gore was elected). Lots of people are understandably frightened. This is the guy who has promised to deport the equivalent of every man, woman and child in the Mountain Time Zone. I wonder if my over-priced health insurance will be cancelled in January.
Despite the campaign, I don't think we know who Donald Trump is. He ran a campaign that was about as policy-free as possible, speaking in only the most cartoonish generalities. There are statements on the record supporting almost anything and everything. There were few things he was as committed to as the Muslim immigration ban. Then I heard that all of those references were vaporized from his Twitter account the day after the election. Never mind.
There was a great Peter Sellers movie called "Being There." It's about an idiot gardener who only speaks in references to his garden. The political intelligentsia thought his simpleton ramblings were brilliant metaphor and read into it exactly what they wanted to hear. The man was elected president.
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This will be the first time in a long time that both Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party. For the last eight years, the Republicans in Congress have had only three ideas: "no," "hell no," and "repeal Obamacare." In January, they will have to govern. President Trump will present a budget. God only knows what it will look like as his policy vacuum begins to fill, and Congress will really have to deal with it. That will be complicated. It's not like the Republicans are one big happy family with a clear agenda in mind.
It's possible that something will actually get done. Maybe Congress will perform its Constitutional duty to consider all of the little wars Obama has been running without authorization. Imagine a real discussion about foreign policy. Yes, I know Trump's idea of foreign policy during the campaign was "bomb the s#%t out of them." But now that it's for real, maybe the discussion will include a higher level of information.
Taxes, health care, budget reform, the basic social contract — all of that is up for discussion, and the Republicans either have to deliver or face the consequences at the next election. Nobody should be under the illusion of having been given a free pass to wreak havoc on Social Security and throw granny off a cliff if she gets sick. Most of the problems aren't insurmountable. It's just been impossible for a deeply divided government to even discuss them, and even harder to carry on a discussion when Congress works three days a week for almost six months a year. One lesson from this election seems to be that Washington is clueless about where the rest of nation is on almost everything.
One of the criticisms of Mitt Romney was that he lacked a clear ideology. He was a technocrat-fix-it guy, not a grand visionary. If Trump has an ideology, nobody knows what it is. He's a dealmaker, or so he claims. He apparently likes to get things done. Depending on what things, it might be OK. If the Republicans get drunk on victory and start dismantling Social Security the train wreck will continue. If they recognize that the popular vote reflected a tie, and start working on the problems that are solvable, there could be progress.
The last 18 months were intolerably vicious and destructive. We are better than that. Maybe the first effort is to make America good again.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.