Donald Trump will probably not ruin America as we know it

Honestly, a lot of hyperbole out there.  And, yes, Donald Trump is a disastrous human being who favors really, really bad policies.  And, a lot of Americans really will have a much worse go of it in coming years (and longer, due to judges appointed), but it is unlikely that Trump will upend our Constitutional order as we know it.

But, here’s the thing, and what I’ve been saying all along.  I think it’s reasonable to say there’s a 10-15% chance that Trump actually does become a catastrophically bad president who cripples our economy, makes bigly foreign policy mistakes, and uses his power over the executive branch to trample essential and long-standing democratic norms.  That’s way too high.  I have a hard time putting that chance much over 1% for about any other plausible president.  That’s not okay.  But, American institutions are strong and resilient and Trump’s damage will likely not be catastrophic.

As pretty much always, I find myself very much agreeing with Drum (in response to some left-wing hyperventilation):

You know, things are going to be bad enough already. Aided by a Republican Congress, Trump is going to do his best to dismantle the entire Obama legacy. He’s going to cut taxes on the rich and send the budget deficit into the stratosphere. He’s going to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice and probably more. Bye bye Roe v. Wade. He’s going to unleash Wall Street from all those pesky regulations they hate. He’s going to ignore climate change and let the earth fry.

But he’s not a cult leader beyond his own small base of superfans, and he’s not a king. Congress has its own ideas about what it wants to do, and they will do it. Trump will learn that repealing executive orders is harder than he thinks, and it’s unlikely he has the attention span to really keep at it. Hell, repealing Obamacare will be harder than Trump thinks. He’s not going to declare martial law or round up Muslims and throw them in internment camps. He will likely face a recession, but not a financial collapse. When it happens, the Fed will take the lead, and Republicans will throw money at it. That’s hypocritical, but also perfectly OK as a policy response. Trump will bluster about China and Mexico, but he’s not going to throw up 45 percent tariffs on them. He’ll bluster about NATO, perhaps, but NATO has pretty bipartisan support in Congress—and let’s face it, Trump doesn’t really care much about NATO anyway. He won’t put troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria. It would be unpopular, and anyway, his generals will probably convince him it won’t do any good. He’s not going to gut the First Amendment and put the press corps out of business. He’s not going to nuke Pyongyang.

Trump is bad for the country in the same way that, say, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would be. Beyond that, though, he’s less conservative on the policy front. The reason Trump is uniquely bad is mostly symbolic: he’s willfully ignorant; he’s vindictive; he’s a demagogue willing to appeal loudly and proudly to racial animus; and he has the attention span of a small child. He’d be an embarrassment to any country, let alone the most powerful country in the world.

Isn’t that bad enough? There’s no need to pretend we’re about to spiral into a fascist nightmare or a financial collapse. We have not embraced tyranny. The United States is a very big battleship, even for Donald Trump. [emphasis mine]

Also, I have no idea who this Kos blogger is, but I was actually thinking many of these same thoughts about a very possible upside (seriously):

If Hillary had become president on the heels of Obama’s two terms, the Democrats would be in a very vulnerable position in the next two major elections: the 2018 midterms and the 2020 general election. Democrats would likely suffer heavy losses in the 2018 midterms due to historical precedent (the party that wins the White House usually does poorly in the following midterm elections) and sheer voter fatigue. However, with Donald Trump in the White House the tables are turned and Republicans are the ones who will be in a defensive position in 2018 as they now control both the White House and Congress and will have to give full account of their agenda and results to voters. In this scenario, Democrats are likely to make significant gains in the 2018 midterm elections.

Then building on that, Republicans will again be on the defensive in the 2020 general election with Trump in the White House. The core of Republican policy is set up to hurt the working and middle classes and benefit the rich and powerful. Ironically, these are the same working class people who voted for Trump. They will inevitably feel disappointed over the next four years as they realize that Trump can’t magically solve their problems.

Going into 2020 Republicans will face die-hard opposition from Democrats, a likely disillusioned white working class GOP base (the manufacturing jobs are never coming back)  and an even more diverse electorate than today. All these factors will put them in a very weak position in that election. If Hillary had won this year, Democrats would be the ones on the defensive.

2020 is just the year that Democrats need to win. The next US census takes place that year and that is also when the next congressional districts will be redrawn. Democrats can use their electoral gains in 2020 to Gerrymander Republicans out of the House of Representatives and regain full control of Congress, and lock in their majority for a decade or more.

Also a Democratic President elected in 2020 is more likely to serve two terms, than if Hillary had won this year (one of my biggest concerns with Hillary winning this year is that she would not be re-elected in 2020 due to voter fatigue; it’s unlikely Americans would allow one party to control the White House for 4 terms).

Yep.  I was thinking Tuesday morning just how hard it would be for Hillary to win re-election and for the Democratic party to successfully expand during her term.  I think we have learned in recent times that the most gains for a party probably happen when it does not control the presidency.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong on all this.  I sure as hell hope not.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to Donald Trump will probably not ruin America as we know it

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Did you consider that Hillary as President could be highly successful in bringing other countries to agreement that markedly lowers global tensions? Foreign leaders might be happy to help her since they now clearly see what the alternative to her is. She could win re-election by that alone.
    Stop trying to make the Republican victory a good thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: