A leftover from yesterday but timely given the amount of commentary about Trump as strongman swirling around righty media today. No worries, Trump assures Hewitt. Unlike Obama, “I’ll play by the rules.” Does anyone on either side of the Trump divide believe that? Do Trump fans even want him to play by the rules? The appeal of Trump, I thought, is that he’ll ride into Washington and use his Trumpy superpowers to set things right — slashing bureaucracy, balancing the budget, grabbing Putin by his lapels and telling him to back off of Ukraine, loser. The whole point of Trumpmania is to hack through the sclerotic establishments in both parties and do what’s necessary to restore American greatness. Try to imagine President Trump walking out to the podium in the White House briefing room and announcing that his reform package is dead because the new Democratic majority in the Senate won’t agree to any of it. “Nothing I can do, guys. Chuck Schumer won’t budge.” C’mon.
What he means when he says he’ll play by the rules is that he’ll play by the same rules as Obama, regardless of what else he says here about O overstepping his authority as president. Remember, there was no sharper critic of Bush’s executive overreach circa 2008 than The One; it’s a fine American tradition for aspiring presidents to promise that they’ll correct for their predecessors’ excesses and then end up building on them once they’re sworn in. One of the many … interesting things about a Trump presidency would be watching the reaction among Republicans as Trump inevitably abuses executive action as much as, if not more than, Obama did. Then we’ll find out how much of the conservative complaints about O’s autocratic impulses was a complaint about autocracy and how much was mere grumbling that those impulses weren’t being channeled towards conservative ends. Remember: If you ask Barack Obama, he’ll tell you that he’s “played by the rules” too. Everything I’ve done is well within the bounds of Article II, he’d insist. President Trump will say the same thing and he’ll claim an unprecedented mandate from voters, as a total political outsider who swept to victory promising to smash the ruling class, as justification. Ace has been posting stories lately about Trump endorsing tax hikes on the rich and dodging questions about the Bible in the interest of making sure his pro-Trump readers really understand what they’re getting into if they decide to go all-in on this guy. I’d make the same point about executive power. This is not someone who’s going to scrupulously insist on working with Congress as part of some laborious constitutional scheme to make things happen in D.C. His whole shtick is that he doesn’t let “losers” stand in his way when he wants to make something happen. He’s a Man of Action. How much “action” do you want?
One more thing: In the unlikely event that Trump does sweep to the presidency, I think some historians will begin reconsidering what the Reagan revolution was really about. Was it a conservative revolt against the Great Society, Nixonian welfare-state management, and Carter-era exhaustion with liberalism, or was it more a response to the sense of national renewal that Reagan projected, above and beyond ideology? Reagan, unlike Trump, was a true conservative and wanted to limit government accordingly, but they both stood for American power in different ways. Maybe it was that sense of power, of overhauling a failed governing class, that drew Republicans and centrist Democrats to Reagan first and foremost, with Reagan’s conservatism more of an experiment voters were happy to go along with so long as the economy was booming and the Soviets were back on their heels. If you look at Reagan that way, with ideology a component of his appeal but not the catalytic component, you can sort of see a line between him and Trump.