One year from now, perched atop the steps of the Capitol and overlooking a vast crowd of his fellow citizens on the National Mall, Donald J. Trump could be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Indeed, we may already be counting down the weeks until Donald J. Trump moves into the White House. Make that The Trump White House. Along with Vice President Oprah Winfrey — “She really helped me with the babe vote,” the president-elect might note — Trump will bring his signature policies and a revolutionary tone shift to Washington, which he will try very hard not to call a hick town.
First off, in the spirit of disclosure, I coauthored Trump’s first campaign book, “The America We Deserve,” back in 2000. I found Trump to be funny, truly concerned about America’s future, and a guy who paid his bills on time. I also assume that if you asked him today who I am, he wouldn’t have a clue. As for this election, I vigorously support no candidate. In fact, for reasons explained below, I plan on going fishing on Nov. 8. End of disclosure.
In a similar vein, I’ll go ahead and stipulate that, for any number of reasons — poor showings in early primaries, withering press scrutiny, an unwillingness to write more checks from his own bank account — DT may not actually take the big prize. He may announce that he is, after all, Donald Trump and, “quite frankly, the presidency would be a definite step down.” Or his plane could crash.
Yet, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Trump rides a tsunami of hope, luck, bile, and disaffection into office, inspiring Whoopi Goldberg and others to keep their promise and flee the country. What would life be like for those of us left behind? What would Trump’s America be like? Let’s take a stroll.
The shock to the system would be profound and first noticeable by the words that tumble out of his mouth. It’s not unreasonable to expect he would become the first chief executive to use the F-word. And he’d deploy it judiciously, particularly while attacking ISIS and perhaps as soon as his inaugural address or later in a State of the Union, after which the cameras will pan the assembled Supreme Court justices, generals, and legislators left to wonder if it’s worse to applaud the sentiment or look unpatriotic by not doing so. At the National Prayer Breakfast, the president might use the word as part of an alliterative crescendo featuring pharaohs and Philistines — presenting the audience with a similar dilemma.
Before we get there, however, let’s also stipulate that even Trump’s detractors must agree that he has made this election cycle unusually entertaining. People may not like his demeanor, his pronouncements, or his hair — but the current political season would be a snoozefest without him. Who wakes up wondering what Marco Rubio, Jeb!, or Bernie Sanders will say today? Some of us check regularly to see whether Ted Cruz has grown a dorsal fin overnight, but for the most part, Trump is the draw.
And it’s increasingly easy to believe he’s got more of a chance of winning than the pro prognosticators gave him at the start of this campaign, which was zero. His Republican opposition is weak and uninspiring — a collection of hacks, nonstarters, and the butt end of a political dynasty. While the grand wise men of the Grand Old Party fear Trump may destroy the Republican Party, nine out of 10 medical examiners would rule it a suicide.
Meantime, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has her own set of problems. Over-qualified though she may be, she suffers from a terrible case of chronic charisma deficiency that looks worse in comparison with Trump. Their debates will be the political equivalent of a battle of the bands between Adele and Black Sabbath. Plus, there’s always the possibility of a last-minute indictment over her electronic mail.
Like Ronald Reagan and Thomas Pynchon used to say: “This is America.” Anything can happen. Maybe even President Trump.
In terms of policy, Trump has run a campaign around the five core issues that every single American agrees are the most important — restricting Muslim and Mexican immigration, berating China, cutting taxes, reforming the Veterans Administration, and protecting the God-given right to own a bunker full of automatic weapons.
I loaned my crystal ball to my stock broker, but it seems safe to assume that his M&M immigration initiative — banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans — would command a great deal of public attention and discussion, especially when the streets filled with protestors. DT only likes adoring crowds, so this might undo him a bit, and perhaps inspire him to blink, or at least significantly modify his policies. At the same time, he’d also learn that presidents are not emperors or kings, and that he had less power than he imagined. His promise to put cop killers to death, for example, overlooked the fact that many states do not allow capital punishment.
Meantime, the Chinese will likely tell him where he can stick his plans to force them to close their sweatshops and plug their smokestacks. While his proposal for a flat tax will be music to many ears, it’s an old tune that might grate like disco for others. His promise to take families who bring in less than $50,000 per year off the tax rolls is similarly pleasing, especially if he can refrain from calling them “losers.” As for his Second Amendment initiatives — “I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools” on his first day in office, he promises — they may drive Michael Bloomberg to Xanax addiction. It goes without saying that making the VA more responsive will be universally welcomed.
But that’s to imbue Trump’s policies with a seriousness they don’t deserve. They are probably not central to his ascendancy — or his potential legacy.
After all, how many people go to ever-growing Trump rallies to hear him denounce the Chinese as “currency manipulators” or swoon when he calls for a 15 percent tax rate? Not many. They flock to Trump to hear him denounce losers.
Trump may be new to the political game, but he recognizes the deep resentment many Americans feel toward the elites — whether in politics, the media, the academy, or entertainment — who think it their duty to tell everyone else how to think. Trump feels their disdain. He empathizes with those who are weary of being labeled “haters” or “phobic” because they don’t toe the proper line, and who have had quite enough scolding about their diets, how much they drink or smoke, what they should think about the weather, and the evils perpetrated by their ancestors.
His supporters may agree with lefties that the system is rigged. But in their minds, the most notable beneficiary of it is Hillary Clinton, whose entry-level government jobs were US senator and secretary of state. It is a good thing that guillotines are not currently in fashion.
But DT surely is. Many of the besieged have sent up celestial petitions begging for a redeemer, or at least someone who will tell their oppressors to stuff it. The Universe has heard their entreaties and sent them Donald J. Trump. Put another way, we are seeing the political equivalent of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer trying to free themselves from the hectoring clutches of Aunt Polly.
Of course, even stalwart liberals such as Mel Brooks and Norman Lear have complained about political correctness. Meanwhile, anyone with a grievance against government policy, down to seat belt and bike helmet laws, probably sees a kindred spirit in Trump. His supporters’ views are hardened and his numbers increased when they are characterized as mentally unbalanced, chronically angry, uneducated rubes. And they like it when Trump throws around the word “stupid.” Taken together, Trump’s constituency is likely far larger than we realize.
Trump has no problem playing the role of a modern-day Bolivar — the people’s liberator — perhaps the first of that tribe to outfit his private jet with a Renoir. And should his policies bog down, he can rally the faithful by taking another shot at Polly and her prim confederates, using the word “schlong,” for instance.
President Trump’s freewheeling style would be reflected in his Cabinet: Puffy Combs (secretary of health and human services), Iron Mike Tyson (homeland security), and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio (attorney general), perhaps causing D.C. royalty to flee over the wall into Mexico.
Social media, meantime, would see a definite change in focus. Who’s going to have time to worry about Cecil the Lion when Trump is advocating small-arms training in middle school? And imagine the response when he jokes that appointees to the Federal Reserve will face a swimsuit review. Talk about an audit. Elsewhere, the popularity of a new hairstyle called “The Don” will make us wax nostalgic for the mullet.
Most of it would be highly entertaining. But there would surely be tense times as well, especially when the new president goes toe-to-toe with Vladimir Putin. Trigger warning: a discussion of possible End Times to follow.
Despite his tough talk, Trump is a real estate guy who might have had to stare down carpet and concrete contractors but never a former KGB operative with experience as a carpet bomber. Will Trump, who has held out the possibility of nuking ISIS, feel it necessary to prove to Putin who has the bigger club? The tabloid headlines practically write themselves: “Goon Versus Loon.” Well, the worse that could happen would be nuclear incineration. Maybe we have it coming.
But let’s hope not. And to give Trump one last bit of credit, he and his competitors have made it fully respectable to choose another political option: joining the NOTA Party — None of the Above — and going fishing on Election Day.
That’s where I’ll be. Like many Americans, I don’t think we need another Clinton or Bush in the White House. But Trump isn’t the answer. His remarks about Senator John McCain’s war record ripped it with me. There’s a personal angle: My youngest son did two tours in the Middle East, and several other local boys answered the call. Some were hurt and will never be the same. For a guy like Trump, who never wore the uniform, to scoff at anyone’s military sacrifice makes him, in my opinion, ineligible for the job of commander-in-chief.
He even had the chutzpah to argue that he has worn the uniform — in military school — which he likened to real service. That’s like going to a toga party and announcing that you now know what it’s like to have served in Caesar’s legions. Whatever else you want to say about the man, he does keep us smiling.
I’ll be smiling while I’m drowning those worms. I’m expecting lots of company.
Dave Shiflett posts his writing and original music at www.Daveshiflett.com.