Guidelines for Thinking About President Trump

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Posted on: 02/04/2017 by Pat O'Brien

We are two weeks in now on the Trump Presidency. It has gone about as I expected. We have the controversial Cabinet nominees, we have discussion about who is paying for the wall, we have the classless and distracting tweets, etc. I expected most, if not all of this. But, I didn't expect the strong reaction we have had from the citizens of our Republic. Maybe there are some people that didn't engage during the campaign that now realize their inaction has enabled this administration. Regardless, it has been good to see our citizens getting involved.

Now, what do we do for four years? More to the point, I have been searching for a way to think through the Trump Presidency. I don't want to be the person that simply reacts to his tweets and the latest strange event of the day. Thus, I have decided to create some guidelines of how to view this President and his administration. These guidelines will help me understand whether I need to just "shake my head" or leave my office desk and take to the streets. 

There are three broad categories that I use now to assess the Trump Administration. The first category is "Status Quo GOP". The second category is "Unnecessary and Harmful, but not Unconstitutional". The third category is "Damaging the Republic".

Status Quo GOP involves the normal things that a Republican President wants to accomplish. They want to cut taxes on high earners and corporations. They want to employ trickle-down economics. While I disagree with most of this ideology, it is pretty normal stuff. Republicans always want to cut regulations on the environment, the workplace, etc. Republicans want a Supreme Court pick that will restrict abortion and let businesses do what they want. When I see something like this from the Trump Administration I don't blink an eye. I paid little attention to the Supreme Court pick because I know there is not much that can be done to stop it. Oh, you might be able to block Neil Gorsuch from joining the Court, but you cannot stop Mr. Trump from getting someone else approved. It's going to happen because elections have massive consequences. (NOTE: This does not change the fact that the GOP stole Mr. Obama's right to get a vote on Merrick Garland. They did, and that was wrong. But, they used their raw power and the American public did little about it. Few people took to the street in other words.) Finally, the GOP will try to do something about Obamacare. That has been their mantra for six years. But, I'm not sure they can agree upon a replacement plan. And, if they cannot, we may end up keeping Obamacare or some "repaired" version of it.

Unnecessary and Harmful, but not Unconsitutional is the most frustrating category. These are the things that I wish we could do more about. This includes the border wall with Mexico. It is a non-sensical and emotional idea. And, Mexico will never pay for it. But, Mr. Trump backed himself into a corner and he has to try and build it. It is unnecessary and generally harmful to our relationship with Mexico, but at the end of the day it's perfectly allowable under our Constitution. The potential for a trade war should be a big concern. Usually, Republicans believe in free trade. But, Mr. Trump primarily won the election by convincing blue collar folks in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that trade has hurt them. So, he is using rhetoric that could turn into legislation that could create a trade war. It would hurt our economy but it has precedent. Just Google "Tariff Act of 1930" if you want to learn more. We can survive a trade war. And, speaking of war, there is a pretty decent chance that Mr. Trump could get us into some kind of conflict that will cost American soldiers their lives unnecessarily. But, that is common in our history. After all, we fought a war in Vietnam and have little, if anything, to show for it now. Even this week, in Mr. Trump's first military action, a member of SEAL Team 6 lost their life in a raid in Yemen. Early reports indicate that the Trump Administration did a poor job prepping the mission and weighing the potential costs. Regardless, as terribly unfortunate as it is, we lose brave members of the military all the time. Mr. Trump is the President and he absolutely has the right to order a raid into Yemen - as unnecessary and harmful as it potentially might have been.

The final category is the most important one: Damaging the Republic. Mr. Trump has started down the path of damaging the foundations of our government. But, before I elaborate, we need to be clear that the Betsy DeVos nomination to lead the Education Department will not damage our Republic. Whatever Judge becomes a Supreme Court Justice will not damage the Republic. Even the wall on the Mexican border (as dumb as it may be) will not damage the Republic. I'm not taking to the streets over Betsy DeVos. I might call my Senator (who I doubt cares what I think), but that nomination is not street worthy. Think about it this way, if you only have a limited amount of ammunition, you need to make every bullet count.

So, what goes on the list of potentially damaging the Republic? First, this "Muslim Ban" and the road that Mr. Trump is trying to take us down. De facto, he wants to create a religious test for people to enter our country. That is simply Un-American. But, that is only the first step. He knows the Federal Court system could stand in his way so he will try to delegitimize the Judiciary by tweeting things such as "this so-called judge". Undermining the Judciary is bad stuff. It is the kind of thing that leads to arresting a Federal Judge for disagreeing with the President. During my lifetime, it has seemed impossible that a Federal Judge could be arrested for issuing a ruling. But, I now concede the possibility exists. And, if Mr. Trump arrests a Federal Judge, it's time to take to the streets. 

Mr. Trump's conspiracy talk about "three million illegal votes" also damages our Republic. It didn't happen. It's not true. It's totally made up because his ego got hurt. And, it damages our Republic by undermining the trust people have in their voting system. Kellyanne Conway's new phrase of "alternative facts" is damaging to our Republic. Their are opinions and there are facts, but there is no such thing as alternative facts. 

So, let's review. The first thing you should do when you see a Trump tweet or an action of his administration is decide in what category does that event belong. Once you do that, it will dictate your response. Personally, I'm happy that people want to call their Senators. It might even work - for a time. I have been tweeting my local Congressman and asking if he holds town hall meetings. So far, no response. The account is just ignoring me. But, last Sunday I attended a rally in support of Muslims in our country. It was held on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock. Mainly, I want the Muslims in my community to know that a Christian would take the time to stand up for their rights. I wanted them to see a diverse crowd and know they were not alone. In fact, they are welcome in this community. The rally was great and I was glad I went. Will it make a difference? I'm not sure. But, there is an argument that our Republic is always involved in a tug of war. Imagine a gigantic rope that millions of people are tugging on - from different directions. If you look at the rope at any given point, it's hard to see the struggle. And, it's hard to see why you joining in on the tugging will make a difference. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. But, here is the deal, if you put things into categories, you don't have to wonder whether it makes a difference. I join in and tug on the rope because I'm out of options. The Republic is more important than me. So, if I know someone is damaging it I have to do my part. That is the price of being an American.

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