Imagining the first term of a Trump presidency

Marc Ambinder, writing at The Week, seems to have taken the next leap in the evolution of American politics this season and – at least as an exercise in theory – asked us to consider what a Trump presidency would look like. While the primary could still play out in any number of interesting ways, it seems well past the point where such a future can be entirely written off so Marc isn’t submitting this to some science fiction outlet. It’s true that supporters of the more “conventional” candidates could all coalesce around one Anti-Trump over the fall and winter and set up for a sweep of many early states in the primary, but that’s hardly a sure thing. And if he makes it through that process and Hillary Clinton somehow remains out of jail long enough to be the Democrat nominee, there are early indications that he could pull off what seemed completely impossible only 90 days ago.

So what would happen? Marc’s first bit of prognostication includes the idea that Democrats would be placed in the position which their opponents held previously… they would become the Party of No.

So if he became president, he’d face unprecedented and implacable opposition from the Democratic Party, which might be tempted to pilfer from the playbook of the pre-2015 Republicans and become the anti-governing party, so toxic to their sensibilities would Trump be by the time he’s inaugurated.

But some of the opposition would be petty. If Trump made a move on immigration and Democrats blocked it, fine. If Trump proposed and found a coalition to reform entitlements and reconfigure the tax code, Democrats would find themselves opposing Trump just because he’s an offensive, not-nice person of privilege. They’d have descended to his level to spite him.

One of the bigger questions that will no doubt be on people’s minds is the matter of war and peace. Trump talks tough to everyone, foreign and domestic alike. And if other nations didn’t toe the line to his satisfaction would he be ready to literally pull the trigger?

Can you imagine Donald Trump’s finger on the button? Today, a president can execute an emergency war order in less time that it takes to get a cheeseburger at McDonald’s. Russia is once again baring its teeth, and a President Trump might have to contend with its incursions into NATO countries, triggering, one presumes, some sort of military response.

Despite all of his bombast, Trump hasn’t called for nuking anyone. In fact, he seems to understand that effective foreign policy requires some continuity. He opposes Obama’s Iran negotiations, but he’s said that, as president, he’ll make damn sure than Iran keeps its word.

Frankly, while I don’t agree across the board with Ambinder’s conclusions, a hypothetical Trump presidency probably wouldn’t be all that scary in terms of End Times scenarios. Conservatives would probably be unhappy when he wound up supporting some tax increases and going wobbly on gun control bills. Liberals would be furious with him on the policy front regarding… well, just about everything else. But for all the bombast he loves to display before the camera Trump doesn’t strike me as somebody who would go into full suicidal, plunge off the cliff mode. He’d be lambasted in the international press for his rough edges when talking to foreign leaders but not to the point of kicking off a new world war. He’s just not that stupid.

The real issue with a Trump presidency (at least in my dark little heart) is the question of whether or not he’d even finish his first term. Facing the reality of being unable to get anything substantive done without the blessing of Congress – at least on the policy front – would probably drive The Donald to distraction. And when he finds out that we actually would have to pay for a wall on the southern border (or at least most of the cost, anyway) he would likely be glum. How long would Donald Trump stick around in a job if he grew to hate it?

And now I’ll have to go off and begin pondering who Trump might pick for his running mate. It might become important.

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on February 04, 2023