Donald Trump’s will be the first improvised Presidency in the history of our nation. If you’ve read his biographies or watched his performance on the campaign trail, you know this to be true. Trump negotiates the way a civil litigator does, and his promises are like the allegations in a civil complaint.
In other words, if you think a case should settle for $50,000, ask for $5 million. That way, you have a lot of room to bargain.
Likewise, all of Donald Trump’s campaign “promises” are only the opening salvo in a negotiation. It’s completely unclear which ones he intends to keep. He’s already backing off on building the wall with Mexico or completely repealing Obamacare as he begins to discover how difficult either of those things will be. Or on deporting 3 million “illegal” aliens, who will be much harder to deport than it has already been to close Guantanamo (as Obama has already found out).
Christopher Ingraham, writing in the Washington Post, has posited that there are four ways that a Trump Presidency could turn out.
- Trump could operate as a traditional Republican.
- Trump could operate as a “popular rogue.”
- Trump could become a failed President.
- Trump could operate as an authoritarian.
In actuality, it could be any combination of the four scenarios above. Let’s take them one at a time.
The Traditional Republican
Despite all of his populist rhetoric, Trump is likely to operate as a traditional Republican in many respects, especially in areas like taxes, deregulation, and his appointments to the Supreme Court. In this scenario, policy making details would be turned over to Mike Pence – he would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy – and Trump would be in charge of “making America great again.” The nomination of Reince Preibus to be Trump’s Chief of Staff is a nod in that direction.
The Popular Rogue
In this scenario Trump could break with a lot of Republican orthodoxy, in particular by moving to protect programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which the Paul Ryan wing of the Republican party have had their eye on for some time. The abolition of various trade deals would also not play well with the “Chamber of Commerce” wing of the Republican party. This scenario also depends on Trump being able to bring back jobs to the “forgotten” working class, especially in states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which frankly is not likely.
What is far more likely is that Trump, his family and his cronies engage in a huge amount of ethically questionable self-dealing and double-dealing, and that the “forgotten” working class gets screwed once again, only this time on a grander scale. They’ve already had to settle the Trump University case, and just yesterday that had to admit to self-dealing in the tax filings for the Donald J. Trump foundation.
On the other hand, if the Donald actually does something good while he’s President – and believe me when I say that I’m not holding my breath – I’ll give the Donald credit where credit is due. Unlike, for example, most of the Republican critics of Barack Obama.
The Failed President
This, of course, is the most likely scenario, that Trump establishes himself as a failed President. Someone who is nowhere near up to the job. Like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Trump could practice “crony capitalism” with all of the ethical consequences that come with that.
Trump has a remarkable attention deficit with an inability to keep his eye on the ball. Instead of focusing on building his cabinet, Trump is already feuding with the cast of “Hamilton,” with Alex Baldwin, and with the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” And the New York Times. And the network TV news programs, who got a dressing down from Trump the other day for their supposedly unfair coverage (even though no one got more free media coverage than Donald Trump). Finally, Trump is also attacking foes on Twitter like he’s campaigning.
The downside, naturally enough, is that Trump could do an enormous amount of damage to the United States, especially if he mishandles our economy. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way of getting from here to there – in other words, of demonstrating Trump’s incompetency and the bankruptcy of Republican policy ideas – without handing him the reins and letting him try to drive.
The Authoritarian President
This is the nightmare scenario. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be that concerned about this, because there are many reasons to believe that Trump does not have the backing of the United States military, and without the backing of the military it’s hard to be truly authoritarian.
But there is one nightmare scenario for me, and that involves a 9/11 style attack – maybe a “dirty” nuclear mini-bomb – and Trump and the Republicans use it as an excuse to impose some kind of emergency law. Under the guise of the country “pulling together,” a lot of damage could be done.
That, and Trump getting into a stare-down with the Russians once the honeymoon wears off, and the Russians decide to “rescue” their countrymen who are still in the Baltic states.
I’m hoping for the best while fearing the worst. The best that can happen, from my perspective, is that Trump proves to be so incompetent, and the Republicans engage in so much internecine in-fighting, that they cannibalize themselves, and we at least recapture the House in 2018.
 His feud did take some of the focus off of Trump settling the “Trump University” lawsuit for $25 million. Instead the media once again focused on the circus instead of on what was a significant news story.
 I still don’t think Trump would have the backing of the military, and he may get in to a confrontation with them sooner than later if he tries to re-impose the use of torture on prisoners at Guantanamo or elsewhere, but that’s the scenario that keeps me up at night.