As Donald Trump continues to surges in the polls, people wonder what kind of President he would be. My satirical post the other day has a bit of truth – Trump owes nothing to the Republican party nor does he have a well articulated vision. Indeed, we might find out that Trump the President would be a very different character than Trump the candidate.
To put it bluntly, he’s lived his life as a kind of high end confidence man. Not a blatant con artist, but close to it. He has the one gift any good con man must have: the ability to know what is necessary to close the sale. Up until now he has masterfully said and done exactly what was needed to surge ahead in the polls and confound his critics. He has tapped into the anger and Angst of those who they are losing their country to strange forces, promising to confront and defeat these threats (e.g., Mexicans “illegals” and Muslims) to ‘make America great again.’ In an era where Presidents face unprecedented constraints and challenges, he acts like he can handle anything.
No other candidate could do it the way he has. Not worrying about pleasing donors or special interest groups he’s crafted a sales pitch that fits the mood of the country – or at least Republican voters, especially those who are older, white, and see a country changing at an incredible rate. They hope that maybe Trump can restore the world to what it once was.
He can’t. The world is changing too fundamentally and rapidly. More importantly, he probably doesn’t want to. Now he is “making the sale,” which is something completely different from “running the company.” After selling himself to the public, if elected, the new task would be to govern. And nobody has any reason to expect that he’d use the same ideas, techniques and positions to govern – salesmen don’t run the service department at car dealerships after all.
Trump does not seem to have any real ideological convictions. Over time he’s espoused conservative opinions – but before he became a darling of the right pursuing the Obama birther silliness, he more often than not put forth liberal points of view. One look at his personal life and it’s clear he’s not a social conservative. Now he waves the Bible and professes deep faith. Of course. That’s what he has to do to make the sale.
As President, Trump says he’d want to surround himself with the best people. Too often Presidents repay political favors or have party stalwarts as advisers. Perhaps Trump would put a quality group around him and listen to them. That would be a good thing.
He won’t lose the bombast, but some of the radical right wing zingers that are keeping him in the headlines now will give way to bluster about economic policy, tax reform (heck, Trump might be the one Republican who could push through a tax increase on the wealthy), and rebuilding the infrastructure.
In foreign policy, Trump’s brash soundbites hide the fact he’s been more dovish than much of the pack. He seems content to leave Syria and ISIS to Putin and not get involved in that mess. As for Ukraine, he’s happy to let Germany lead. Indeed, he’s not calling for a massive increase in defense spending or some of the hawkish things others are promoting. Lest we forget, unlike most Republicans, he opposed the Iraq war in 2003.
Looking at his past, and even the positions he now takes one could expect that despite all appearances Trump would govern as a pragmatist, even a centrist.
That doesn’t mean I think Trump would be a good or effective President. Only that, as my satirical post the other day suggests, we can tell very little about a possible Trump Presidency from his campaign rhetoric. For most politicians there is a desire to convince and stay true to a message, or core principals, be they conservative or liberal. Trump is just making the sale, using whatever works.