Unless Donald Trump significantly changes course, conservatives should get ready for a wild, inconsistent, and exhausting four years. With the exception of short periods of quiet caused by desperate political necessity, the president-elect’s governing philosophy seems relatively simple: He does what he wants, when he wants. We’ve seen this movie before. It starred Bill and Hillary Clinton.
This doesn’t mean that Trump will have a free hand in policy. The Clintons certainly didn’t. After all, the American system boxes in a president, imposing comprehensive checks on his power. Just ask President Obama. He came into office promising to stop the rise of the oceans; he leaves with a legacy that features one unpopular social reform (Obamacare) and a collection of regulations and executive orders that Trump can unwind with the stroke of a pen.
No, Trump’s version of “I’ll do what I want” is a function of personality and politics. And it means that honest conservatives will be constantly lurching from applause and support to critique and condemnation. Nominees such as Betsy DeVos for secretary of education and Jeff Sessions for attorney general are outstanding; placing Steve Bannon so close to the seat of power is abominable. The president can’t “moonlight” as a real-estate mogul, and Republicans rightly outraged at the pay-to-play aspects of the Clinton Foundation can’t turn a blind eye to the potential influence of large-scale foreign business at Trump properties, hard as both may try.