I have a nasty habit: I remember disappointments. That bothers me some...but not as much as it bothers others.
Disappointment is reality’s way of reminding us that not all our hopes will be fulfilled, that nothing is guaranteed, that “there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.” In those cases where we’ve assumed success but have reaped failure, it’s taught us that a fall from a hopeful height is more painful than any other sort.
Today at noon, Donald J. Trump, a most improbable presidential candidate, will be inaugurated as the 45th president of these United States. That’s good; it’s something to cheer, especially in light of the alternative we faced. But it’s not the end of America’s struggle to reclaim its faded greatness; it’s the beginning.
The hard work remains to be done. The opposition remains numerous and strong. The entrenched enemies will have something to say about it, and defeating them will not be a matter of presidential ukase.
Excessive triumphalism today could contribute to failure tomorrow.
Inasmuch as I doubted, early on, that Trump could gain the presidency, I have my own failures of prediction for reminders that “probable” and “improbable” are words to be used only before the relevant event. “Gee, I didn’t expect that” is a confession of imperfect vision, not a magical formula that can reshape reality to conform to your expectations. I didn’t expect any of what followed the Republican nominating process. It happened anyway.
Of course, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats didn’t expect any of it, either. Our Schadenfreude over that is understandable. But it would be painful, not to say deeply ironic, to succumb to the same sort of disappointment. Far better that we strive to understand the correlation of forces, that we might shape a battle plan that would give us reasonable prospects of real, policymaking victory.
On our side are the elements within the GOP who are genuinely happy that Trump prevailed and are eager to help him push through the changes he’s proposed. Not all of these can be certainly identified at this early a moment in the process. Moreover, they are to some degree Republican dissidents: persons who are willing to challenge the party’s power structure and “the way things are done around here.” They will need to demonstrate combativeness and resilience that Republican officeholders have seldom displayed this century past.
On the other side:
- The enormous federal bureaucracy;
- Status quo-aligned Republican officials;
- State governments dependent on federal outlays;
- Virtually the whole of the print and electronic media;
- The entire Democrat Party and every one of its officeholders.
That’s a lot of opposition. It’s demonstrated considerable power in the past. Its inertia alone would pose a formidable challenge to Trump’s program...and it will exhibit plenty of conscious, determined resistance as well.
I’d like to believe that the odds are in Trump’s favor. Failing that, I’d like to believe that we’re evenly matched. But I’m finding it difficult to convince myself.
Donald Trump has scored numerous successes in business. The business world is composed of voluntary interactions that feature a high degree of freedom of association. That is not the case in government.
Standing laws, the resistance of millions of persons, and the existence of many iron triangles must be overcome for the Trump program to gain ground. Laws can be repealed, persons can be negotiated with to a degree, and iron triangles can sometimes be suborned. All of that will take cleverness, planning, and work; it won’t happen simply because we wish it.
Consider for example the Civil Service laws that make it exceptionally difficult to discipline or fire a federal employee. You may recall that when President George W. Bush proposed the federalization of airport security under a new Transportation Security Administration, one of the biggest battles to be fought was over whether TSA employees would be Civil Service employees, and thus protected by Civil Service rules. Dubya lost that battle, despite considerable effort. Too many Congressional Republicans opposed him, albeit mostly sotto voce. It was to be expected that Capitol Hill Democrats would oppose him, of course, but the lack of support from his own party made his defeat inevitable.
It’s possible that in comparable situations, President Trump will be able to mobilize popular pressure upon his co-partisans that would swing them, however reluctantly, to his side. We should hope so, for little else would be in the interests of the Trump program or the nation. It would be a betrayal of Trump’s commitment to downsizing the Leviathan to “buy” the support he needs with promises of earmarks or other sorts of bribes.
That realization puts the spotlight where it belongs: on us.
It’s never been enough simply to raise a favored candidate to office. That’s never been more the case than it is today. In our celebrations for having triumphed at the polls, we must remember that our victorious candidate, and his open allies, will need our support. They won’t have much else to work with.
Those of us represented in Congress by Republicans must inform those officials that we expect them to support the president. Those of us represented by Democrats might do well to inform them that we’ll be watching, and that we’ll exact a price for anything they do to thwart the Trump agenda.
Articulate persons might consider writing pro-trump letters to the editors at regional newspapers and electronic media. Such letters, especially if sent via the U.S. Mail, carry more weight than most people appreciate.
Concerning the federal bureaucracy and those elements in state and local governments funded by federal outlays, more thought is required. Private, voluntary organizations can displace them in some cases, but not all. I hope more minds are at work on this than mine alone.
The central thing to remember is that we who voted Trump into the Oval Office are his only reliable allies. Everyone else has a stake in the status quo. That’s why incumbency is such a difficult advantage for an “upstart” candidate to defeat: he’s not working against his nominal opponent alone.
As of noon today, the celebrations will be essentially concluded. The hard work will only just have begun. And there will still be a chance – possibly a large one – that we’ll see it all go to hell.
In Chess, a pawn, the least powerful piece, that reaches the eighth rank can become a Queen, the most powerful piece. But it doesn’t get there on its own. It must be pushed.
So also with making America great again.
The election was only the first step.
Keep the pressure on.