A caveat up front: The election results were so painful that I haven’t been masochistic enough to read anyone’s post-mortems. Especially since the first glimmers of reaction I saw consisted of predictable (if understandable) finger-pointing, with people who supported Clinton in the primaries blaming Sanders supporters, and vice versa. (I don’t want to litigate that question, though I do have some broader thoughts about what has gone wrong, which I’ll share in a separate post.)
My point, though, is that for all I know, everything I’m about to say has already been said by lots of people. But since Green Boy reopened the doors and invited me in, I’ll contribute my two cents’ worth, and I’ll just have to hope it’s not all too obvious.
Even in my attempt at a self-imposed news blackout, I did notice this faintly hopeful headline:
Obama Planning to Give Trump Extra Tutoring
Sure, this confirms what we already know, namely that Trump is an idiotic man-child who has no idea what being president entails… which is obviously terrifying if you let yourself think about it. But better to have Obama explaining how to do the job than Dick Cheney, right?
It may not have much impact in preventing Trump from appointing an array of cretins, assholes, and washed-up bootlickers to his Cabinet. But the more Obama and congressional Dems can get Trump’s ear during the transition, the greater the fragile hope that our new moron-king will only be disastrous on 90-95% of issues, rather than 100%.
Trump ran as an unapologetic racist/misogynist and barely tried to conceal his greed and dishonesty, but perhaps his only faintly redeeming feature is that he didn’t run as a true believer in the GOP orthodoxy of dismantling Medicare and Social Security, and he’s had a feud of sorts with House speaker Paul Ryan (the torchbearer for that orthodoxy). Moreover, his ego all but demands he not come across as Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s puppet.
So Obama and other Dem leaders need to play to that, whispering to Trump that they can be a useful foil when he wants to stick it to the GOP. Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” in reverse, you might say. They just need to be able to make the pitch in a way that strikes Dubya 2.0 as flattering, rather than manipulative. (It would turn my stomach, but hey, these guys chose to go into politics.)
Besides, it takes no great insight to predict that Trump’s main goal as POTUS will be maintaining his own popularity — and while other GOPers might be all too happy to take the heat for denying government benefits to average Americans, El Donaldo won’t want to see CNN profiling sympathetic souls who’ve had their health insurance, etc., taken away by the heartless Republican in the White House. So it’s up to Obama and the Democratic leaders in Congress to nudge Trump in their direction a “friendly warning” when keeping his blustery campaign promises might backfire politically.
The Republican establishment that got the vote out for him may think they have an implicit deal with the new president: “We put up with your erratic campaign and your verbal abuse, then put you into office anyway, so now you do what we want.”
But if Trump has one single core characteristic, it’s breaking deals after he’s gotten what he wanted. The challenge for Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer is to encourage that trait.