Brown: God Bless Incompetence
The Trump phenomenon may be a blessing in disguise.
Six months into the Trump administration and The Donald has little to show for himself. Signature campaign promises such as the Definitely-Not-Muslim Travel Ban and “The Wall” have been bogged down in courts or have yet to even begin materializing respectively. Republican attempts to “Repeal and Replace” the Affordable Care Act have failed twice now, largely due to the lack of executive leadership or comprehension of the issue. The President’s meetings with foreign leaders, both at his private resorts and abroad, have unilaterally weakened America’s global standing and eliminated any notion that Trump understands or cares what a good political “deal” for the country would entail.
In addition to these offenses, Trump has yet to even nominate personnel for many of the positions necessary to run the federal government. The White House itself has been transformed into a political mosh pit of familial interests, xenophobic svengali and alternative facts. Finally, let us not forget there is still the perennial question as to whether the leader of the free world is a puppet of Vladimir Putin. All of this has exasperated already deep cultural, economic and racial divisions in our country, cratered the American people’s faith in the nation’s institutions and damaged the very bedrock of our democracy.
Despite these troubles, I believe that America may still come away from the Trump Era grateful for the knowledge gained from his presidency. I do not say this because I think that Trump will eventually get his act together; we should all know by now who he is. Rather, I believe that Trump may act as a vaccine for democracy — a temporary “disease” that will allow America to inoculate itself from future dangers should the American people seize the opportunity.
Consider for a moment a world where a more cunning Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency in the summer of 2015. In this scenario he has the same platform, the same demeanor and rhetoric, but also the capacity to realize his goals. In this startling reality, I assume that the imaginary Trump would be able to complete his and Paul Ryan’s policy agendas in a defter manner than his real-life counterpart. I differentiate between Trump and the Republican establishment because, unlike the establishment, it’s self-evident that Trump has no policy agenda above personal gain. He has made it abundantly clear that his own and his family’s benefit are his primary concern, and he will take any political actions necessary to maximize his personal power and wealth.
Any Republican President, Congress or conservative Supreme Court would be expected to roll back environmental and financial regulation, implement sweeping tax cuts, slash welfare and pass “tough on crime” laws. On top of this, we see in Trump a combination of a new American authoritarianism fused with the personal ambition of the executive. Now that Trump has shown us the susceptibility of our country’s institutions to demagogic action, I can’t help but wonder what even greater catastrophes could have befallen the country had a more cunning antidemocrat won in November.
A smarter Donald Trump would have hidden his financial ties to Russian banks and oligarchs. A smarter Donald Trump would have effectively wiped away any trace of Obama’s legacy in his first 100 days in office. A smarter Donald Trump would have handled James Comey and the Department of Justice with a delicacy and precision that deflected if not diffused the situation. Rather than merely distracting the media by rage-tweeting about Morning Joe, a better Donald Trump would use Fox News to cudgel his opponents in the press rather than rely on it to defend his every misstep. The activism and fervor of “The Resistance” would have been circumvented, ridiculed and squashed by an equally intense rallying of his base. A smarter Donald Trump would have aggravated divides on the Left to press the advantage of his populist movement. In this world, I can even imagine meetings with Russian representatives occurring via Donald Trump Jr. with no trace of an email leak.
Like an untrialed flu injection, Trump has systematically exposed us to the fragility and baselessness of our government. His campaign violated every convention of political life, dragging the national discourse down to his base vocabulary. In office, he has revealed the lack of regulation for the president, and has knocked the judiciary and federal regulatory agencies back with the stress of checking his actions. The tragedy is that a man that cannot resist the urge to rage-tweet nor muster the attention span to get through a Wall Street Journal article committed these acts.
I do not believe that Donald Trump is stupid, merely that he is so intensely arrogant and privileged that he cannot bring himself to admit that he doesn’t understand basic civics. I’m hopeful, then, that his hubris will continue to limit his demagogic ambitions and Paul Ryan’s policy agenda. This is by no means guaranteed. But if the American people make it through Trump’s presidency and learn from our blunder, we will be a wiser country. God bless incompetence, and God bless America.