How do you make predictions regarding a Trump Presidency when the future President exhibits such chaotic behavior? The truth is, you can’t. There really is no way to predict Trump’s actions, but you can make prognostications about the next four years based on political realities and policy fundamentals. This list is by no means meant to be finished. I will add things as the next four years progresses. In fact, I already have a couple of more that did not make this first list. I will be adding those soon. I will also own up to any predictions I get wrong. If any of my predictions do not come to pass, I will acknowledge it here and comment on the failure.
1. There will be no wall. – Donald Trump promised a big beautiful wall that would span the border from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. He promised that it would be easy. He promised it would be cheap to build because he knew how to build things. He also promised that Mexico would pay for the wall. None of those things are true. There will not be a wall, now or ever. There will be a token provision in an upcoming spending bill that will allow Trump to save some face with his voters and perhaps get a gullible press to follow him to the border to break ground, but there isn’t really going to be a wall and Mexico is never going to pony up a single dime. It was a ridiculous fantasy from the very beginning, and everybody knew it.
2. Republicans will conveniently forget that they care about the debt and the size of government. – Like clockwork, conservative fiscal hawks always find a way to justify spending more money whenever there is a Republican in the White House. It happened with Reagan. It happened with Bush, and it will happen again with Trump. More money for defense? Not a problem. Increased infrastructure spending for roads and bridges? We’ll just put that on our national credit card. Even Trump’s not so great fake wall is getting funding from a Republican Congress who’s allegiance to the principle of fiscal discipline has suddenly disappeared. There may be a few balanced budget stalwarts who will voice dissent, but they will be quickly and efficiently shouted down by the Republican leadership and Trump himself. Like Dick Cheney said the last time Republicans held all the cards, “Deficits don’t matter.”
3. The Russia hacking scandal will plague Trump for the whole four years. – There is now no way that Trump can put this behind him. Congress has just begun investigating the attack on our country and all of Trump’s Twitter tantrums about the coverage just makes the press push that much harder. His inexplicable reluctance to condemn Russia and Putin or even acknowledge their actions just prompts more questions and more coverage. Every action that Russia takes, every meeting Putin has with Trump, every decision this administration makes regarding the Russians over the next four years will be covered by the press with references to the Russian Hacking scandal and the fact that Trump was their preferred candidate. Trump will wear this scandal around his neck like an anchor. It may not sink him, but it will slow him down.
4. Russia will find a way to test Trump on the international stage. – There will be an event, an act of aggression, or some confrontation fairly soon that will put Trump and the United States in a defensive position. In a way, Putin already knows how Trump will react to overt acts of provocation or even brutality. For example, as a candidate, Trump didn’t see a problem with the Russians annexing the Crimea. Putin could take that lead and decide to escalate his involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. What would be Trump’s response? My guess is that Trump won’t much care one way or the other, right up until the point where his inaction starts to garner criticism from the press and amongst the Russia hawks in Congress. If he believes that he is starting to look weak, there is no telling what he may do in response. Remember, in Trump’s world, it’s all about him. The larger problem of Russian aggression or America’s ability to project strength and leadership around the world have no real meaning to him. What he cares about is how it all makes him look. This is beyond politics or policy. This will be a conflict of personalities and competence on the international stage. Putin vs. Trump. I have no idea how this confrontation will play itself out, but I do know it’s coming.
5. There will be a showdown between the Trump administration and the States that have legalized marijuana. – Not much was made of the legalizing movement during the Presidential campaign. The Obama administration pretty much left the states to their own devices and didn’t interfere with the legalization process. Republicans have a different plan. While Trump himself hasn’t spoken much about the issue, his pick for Attorney General has talked openly about the need to crack down on the semi-legal industry. Remember, Jeff Sessions once thought that the KKK was alright until he found out that they smoked weed. If there is a push to arrest and prosecute individuals involved in the industry, Trump will find himself on the wrong side of an issue that is gaining popularity nationally, especially amongst his most ardent supporters. Does he really want that kind of negative publicity? Will he be able to resist the pressure from Sessions and the religious right or will he fold like a cheap Mexican made empty suit?
6. Lots of Leaks. – So far, the Trump transition team has been relatively leak free. That’s because the team is made up of Trump campaign loyalists. As the administration grows beyond those loyalists, the potential for self-serving employees peddling inside info grows as well. Also, as the administration ages, the greater the possibility for discontent and general unhappiness. Happy staffers don’t leak information. Unhappy staffers do. One potential type of leak I predict we will start to hear about within the administration’s first year will involve the inevitable power struggle between Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon. Unless Priebus is perfectly content to be Bannon’s tea boy for the next four years, I foresee stories coming out of the administration of serious friction between the two men.
7. The sexual harassment lawsuits are coming. – Remember all those women who accused Trump of sexual assault? They haven’t just disappeared. They want their moment of fame. They want their chance to strike back against the man who they believe assaulted them. More importantly, they want their payday. Trump has already shown a willingness to pay off what he considers nuisance lawsuits with the Trump University scandal. Will he pay the women off as well, or will he fight? If he fights, then all he will accomplish is draining his administration of energy, time and political capital. There are finite amounts of each of these precious commodities in any Presidency. Trump can’t afford to waste any effort, but he just won’t have any choice in the matter. Expect to see lots of women and their attorneys doing the cable news shows over the next four years and lots of angry midnight tweets from the defendant. BTW – On a side note. It was the husband of Kellyanne Conway who successfully argued in court for Paula Jones’s right to sue Bill Clinton for acts he allegedly committed before he became President. When all these Trump accusers sue, Trump will have him to thank for all the depositions he will have to sit through.
8. Trump will discover a new fondness for TPP. – Trump’s hostility towards TPP often resulted in some of his biggest applause lines during his campaign rallies. However, whenever Trump was questioned on the trade agreement, he showed an incredible lack of understanding of any of the details. One of the main specifics he continually got wrong was the fact that China was not part of the agreement at all. In fact, TPP was negotiated with the other Pacific Rim countries specifically to bind them closer to the United States and cut China out. With all of the China Hawks around him now, he will quickly come to the realization that TPP constitutes a significant strategic coup against China and their growing economic influence. He will probably want to put his own stamp on the agreement. No doubt he will make a big show of the ‘fact’ that he renegotiated the agreement, but in the end, TPP is here to stay.
9. Obamacare will not be repealed. – It is time for Republicans to face the fact that as far as health care is concerned, this is Obama’s world and they have to live in it. The passage of the ACA has changed the way all of us, including Republicans, think about health care and talk about health care. More importantly, it has placed severe limitations on exactly how Republicans can go about repealing and replacing Obama’s signature agreement. Before the ACA, Republicans could argue that insurance companies should be able to discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions. Now they can’t. There can be no plan to replace Obamacare that doesn’t include a provision that forces insurance companies to insure sick people. Republicans are also stuck with the other popular parts of Obamacare like no more lifetime caps on coverage, kids staying on their parent’s coverage until the age of 26, and maximum out of pocket yearly health care expenses. Any plan they come up with will probably have to include some version of all of these benefits. The only thing left to argue about is the unpopular parts like the individual mandate. Even with that, their hands are tied. The individual mandate provides the insurance companies healthy customers which help pay for all of the sick ones they are forced to take on. Without it, the Republicans will have to come up with some other type of subsidy paid directly to the insurance companies. That type of system will probably necessitate higher taxes, which they will never agree to do. But they have to give their constituents something. They created this antipathy against the ACA and now they certainly can’t just let it stand. Repeal and delay may be the only option they have left, but that only kicks the can down the road and doesn’t solve any of their policy problems. The worst case scenario is that the repeal and delay plan will screw something up with the current health care law that makes it collapse. I am hoping that cooler heads in the Senate won’t let that happen. It is one thing to campaign as a party to repeal something as complicated as the ACA. It’s quite another to do so in such a way that it actually puts American citizens’ lives at risk.
10. At least two of Trump’s nominees will either be rejected by the Senate or withdraw their nomination. – I don’t have any predictions as to who the specific nominees will be. There are a number of them who have significant problems with their qualifications, their temperament and potential conflicts of interest. I don’t believe that the Trump transition team has truly given much thought or effort in fully vetting many of his nominees for the grueling process of confirmation. The primary qualification seems to be loyalty to Trump. That may not be good enough. McConnell has shown his willingness to push through Trump’s nominees no matter what, but he doesn’t control the Democrats, and he certainly doesn’t have full control over all the members of his own majority. The Democrats will be looking to take a scalp, and some of the Republicans may be seeking to put pressure on a President for whom they have no particular affection or allegiance. Trump made enemies during his campaign, not friends. Senators have long memories and a lot more individual power than Trump realizes. Two nominees getting the boot is a big number historically, but this isn’t an ordinary moment in history, and the Republican majority in the Senate is thin.
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- My 10 Predictions for the Upcoming Trump Presidency - January 10, 2017
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- An Historic Election - November 9, 2016
- Trump’s Debate Plan: Prepare To Fail By Failing To Prepare - September 27, 2016
- Trump’s Apocalyptic Message To America - July 22, 2016
- Ted Cruz’s Long Game - July 21, 2016
- So You Say You Want A Revolution? - May 16, 2016
- How Bernie Can Win By Accepting Defeat - May 14, 2016
- Political Reality Trumps Political Revolution - April 26, 2016