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Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump Will Not Be Boring. He Will Confound His Enemies While Doing Things That We Said To Be Impossible. We Expect Big Positive Results,

The Trump Presidency Begins: Time For Some Optimistic Skepticism

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images
JANUARY 19, 2017
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As we enter the Era of Trump, many Americans find themselves feeling tentative
 about the future of the country. Trump’s incoming approval ratings are historically
 low, but Americans are optimistic about 2017. The economy seems to be on
 firm footing, but economists suspect a recession will occur sometime in
 the next four years. On foreign policy, President Obama leaves a globe in 
shambles, with our enemies empowered and our allies frightened; President 
Trump is a cipher, with a cozy view of Russia and isolationist tendencies, but 
a willingness to build up the military for deterrence purposes. And socially, 
we’re more divided than we’ve been in decades.
President Obama leaves with high approval ratings despite his shoddy
VIDEODonald Trump's inauguration security, by the numbers
But now he’s gone. So, what can we expect from President Trump?
The honest answer: nobody really knows.
Here’s what we do know: Donald Trump will continue to be Donald Trump.
 It means speaking some politically incorrect truths that enrage the media,
 attacking the media directly, and targeting political enemies with joy and 
alacrity. It means nasty and silly statements masquerading as political
 incorrectness, and Kellyanne Conway walking those statements back
 while claiming they never happened. It means slamming particular 
companies to earn headlines, bouncing around the stock market and 
our allies through foolish tweets, and epic photo ops and press 
conferences. It means policy heresies no decent conservative would 
have accepted just four years ago being mainstreamed as “populist Trumpism.”
Trump will remain Trump. His character is a constant.
But here’s what we don’t know: what Trump’s policy will look like.
It could be great. We could get a conservative Supreme Court justice
 or more, cuts to regulation, repeal and replacement of Obamacare,
 tax reductions, and a military rebuild.
But all of that depends on how Trump governs. Will he delegate to his
 cabinet – largely excellent picks – to make policy? Or will he insert himself
 in policy discussions with his typically cursory issue knowledge, demanding 
that he shape the law? Will he shift his views as often during his presidency 
as he did in the years preceding it? Will he treat the White House as a
 family business, or will he treat presidential power as a set of celebrity 
perks, while delegating the actual power to those he’s appointed?
Where will he place his focus: on public fights, or on policymaking? There’s
 a good case to be made that conservatives should hope Trump sticks to
 Twitter fights with Saturday Night Live rather than interfering in the
 vagaries of policy. That, after all, was one of the strongest appeals to 
conservatives in the waning days of the election: elect Trump, but get Mike
 Pence and Paul Ryan.
But what if Trump decides he’s the man in charge – since, after all, he’s 
the man in charge? Then we have no idea what’s coming, since as his allies
 frequently state, he has no consistent philosophy of government. His allies
 treat truth as a sort of comfort blanket – he won’t be extreme! – but it’s
 actually disquieting. Policymaking by political convenience rarely ends well. 
Trump isn’t a small government advocate; he believes in big government 
doing big things, which in practice would mean blowing out the budget, for 
example. He believes that American allies are burdens on us rather than
 benefits to us, which in practice means pulling back from the world stage. 
His knowledge of the Constitution is scant, and he's been handed a 
mandate to break things, to overthrow the system, to blow things up.
All of this ignores another problem: while conservatives can hope for 
excellent policy in spite of Trump’s public persona, the public persona matters.
 Trump is now the face of the Republican Party, and the Republican hierarchy
 are bowing before that political reality. That means that the things he says
 have impact on how people think and feel, even if they mean little in terms 
of policy. Conservatives have a right to fear Trump alienating broad swaths
 of Americans, Trump undermining the perception of free markets among
 the public, Trump treating the most powerful office on earth frivolously.
 Barack Obama’s most negative legacy will be undermining race relations, 
dividing us along religious and gender lines. He did that less with policy 
than with rhetoric. Trump now has the bully pulpit. How will that impact 
conservatism – and will conservatives go right along with anything, so 
long as they get a bit of decent policy along the way?
So, with all of this confusion and chaos, what should conservatives do?
We should allow ourselves to be optimistic: this is the greatest chance for
 conservative policymaking in a generation. But we should remain skeptical.
 It’s not our job to prop up Trump – it’s our job to tell the truth. When he’s
 right, we ought to praise him; when he’s wrong, we ought to call him out. It’s
 not our job to assuage his feelings, or try to flatter him into good policy. He
 is a public servant. He serves the citizens, not the other way around. And he 
serves the Constitution, not the other way around. Trump may not have a
 governing philosophy, but we must, and we must hold him accountable to
 that vision. Otherwise, we face the gravest danger: the destruction of a true
 and valuable political philosophy on the shoals of pure partisan hackery.