Thursday, January 19, 2017

Consequences of Trump's inauguration

Tomorrow, Donald Trump will become President of the United States. The day is significant for at least five reasons:

  1. The peaceful transition of power according to the rule of law in the world's largest democracy is an important sign that the rule of law still prevails, no small achievement in a world in which democracies tend to have short lives and in which large nation states tend to have authoritarian rather than democratic governance. Protesters of Trump's inauguration in DC and elsewhere are themselves evidence that freedom of assembly and speech as well as the rule of law still prevail in the US.
  2. Trump's presidency will usher in an unprecedented era of chaos, reflected in both his idiosyncratic, narcissistic Tweets and his proclivity to disregard facts that contravene his opinions and feelings.
  3. That chaos will sometimes become the catalyst for change. For example, Trump's Tweets and other favored forms of communication may replace communication filtered through professional reporters and the media with direct, unfiltered communication to the public. Similarly, President Trump will function as salesperson in chief rather than as head of state, chief executive, and statesman. Trump's apparent preference for living in Trump Tower in New York rather than in the White House indicates his unwillingness to change his personal style and foci to meet the demands of his new office. Other persons, by default and of necessity, will attempt to fill those other roles.
  4. The US seems poised to make a hard turn to the right, with Republicans having a majority in both houses of Congress as well as occupying the White House. Conflict has already surfaced between Congress and Trump, first over the desire of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives to gut the Office of Government Ethics' powers and then over the length of any gap between repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. More conflict is likely, especially as the exigencies of the Presidency inexorably push Trump toward centrist positions and policies. Consequently, US policies and programs will move toward the right but probably not as sharply as many fear.
  5. Politics will become increasingly personal. Trump perceives disagreement as an attack on him personally. He frequently responds with ad hominem attacks on anyone who has the audacity to disagree with him. The personalization of politics will further polarize politics, eroding Trump's ability to obtain Congressional support for legislative, budgetary, and other initiatives. Cooperation across party lines is unlikely to occur for similar reasons.

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