The real danger of a wolf is the pack that he follows.
In college I wrote this piece where I made up this terrible acronym standing for Republicans Actually Love Obama (RALO). The weird acronym aside, the argument I made stands pretty true. The Bush administration was an awkward time to be a conservative. Exploding deficits from war and tax cuts, combined with a regulatory environment which created the worst financial crisis since the great depression, made a terrible case for free market anti-government philosophy. Just a couple weeks into Obama’s first term, memorably, is when the Tea Party movement was born. Premised on the idea that taxes were too high and government too large, Obama, the nations black president, became the best target of that pent up rage of big government because suddenly it was the other guys in control of the policies sustained by Republicans. Republicans vowed to obstruct absolutely everything and anything that Obama did. And they did that. Rather than offer concrete ideas or genuine alternatives to Obama’s painfully moderate agenda, congressional Republicans have made their careers in the past eight years out of fear mongering to a declining white electorate with the idea that everything Obama and the democrats were up to was this corrupt and globalist agenda hell bent on destroying everything great about America.
In reality, the white working class that has been spoon fed conspiracy theories and disinformation is squeezed by the natural economic consequences of globalization and the policies conservatives pedal as fiscal responsibility designed to help the working man, when actually these policies are the verbatim wish lists of corporations and the very wealthy. Republicans effectively nuked any prospects of bipartisan activity on just about every major problem the country faced, because they had convinced their base that Obama was absolutely pure evil, and therefore compromising with him was blasphemy. And despite that obstruction, some things got done by Democrats and the economy has a low unemployment rate, modest economic growth, and signs of upticks in wages and reductions in inequality. And back to my acronym, why Republicans love Obama is because for all that time, they could propose all the tough choice conservative policies they wanted without ever having to worry about actually implementing them, while simultaneously claiming that Obama’s blocking of their agenda was shattering the American dream. They could cry wolf and say the Democrats were stopping them. No longer.
And thus this country, thanks to the electoral college and a minority of voters who are mostly non-college degree holding whites, have elected someone who has consistently used his platform to demagogue women, immigrants, and minorities. Trump’s lack of any sense of social justice is terrible even if he simply sits on his hands, because now those most vulnerable and demeaned in our society have concerns which are at best, ignored, and at worst, persecuted.
The real fears of Trump that you see people protesting in the streets are not faked like the Tea Party’s ideas that they claimed Obama would represent via exhuberent taxes and government spending (Both are at 50+ year lows). The anger about Trump is far more than losing an election and prospect of a progressive agenda. It’s the dangerously belittling words that Trump uses to describe his political enemies and groups. Given the fact that Trump is a wildcard, he very well could follow through on his plan to ban muslims entering the US. He very well could sue all of the women who have accused him of sexual assault. To claim that all of Trump’s extreme rhetoric shouldn’t be taken literally is to beget the question: What on earth do you look at for character other than the words and actions of an individual? Supporters of Trump can either admit Trump is a demagogue, racist, misogynist, unintellectual buffoon, etc.; or they can say that they genuinely have zero idea what he stands for and voted for him as an agent of change. The truth is that given how unstable he is, he could very well cause immense damage in an untold number of ways. If his governing approach matches even half of his rhetoric, we are in for a very dark four years.
But the most obvious damage to come right away is from the newly minted majorities Republicans have in Congress. Trump admittedly has no substantive knowledge of public policy or the political landscape other than what he picks up from the yes-men he surrounds himself with and Fox News. What makes him so dangerous is that this lack of conviction and concrete ideas other than a vague pandering to populist fears means that public policy for the next 2-4 years will be entirely determined by the people he puts in his government to work with Congressional Republicans. Trump will be the puppet and rubber stamp of conservatives who have long dreamed of packaging their policies into a populist message of change like Obama did during his first election.
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, is effectively in control of the nation’s legislative agenda now. Despite Trumps rhetoric, It’s unlikely he will try or be able to effectuate any change in trade policy, because every economist in the universe will rightly tell him that dismantling NAFTA and imposing tariffs will cause a trade war which will send the US into recession. The same goes for a lot of things Trump has said. The blessing of saying absolutely absurd things for him now is that he can claim Congress won’t go along with it. Say what you will about Ryan, but he isn’t a fraud. He tells you exactly what he wants and he will not change that tune just because he has power. And his budget proposals over the past eight years call for some of the most draconian cuts to government and social spending, all to pay for enormous tax cuts which undoubtedly benefit the very wealthiest. Trump’s own campaign website touts a plan which is basically the Ryan budget on steroids. Under any mix of these ideas, income inequality will skyrocket from a massive redistribution of wealth to the top, the most vulnerable in society will be hit the hardest with a loss of services and assistance, and the US will probably go into recession at some point within the next four years. Not to mention the almost certain doomed prospects of Obamacare or any number of measures put in place by Obama in the last eight years. 22 million people are about to lose health insurance.
Deeply hard line free market conservatives, for the first time in anyone’s living memory, have totally unobstructed power to actually govern. And much like a toddler discovering fire for the first time in his life, this prospect could spread damage far beyond the comprehension of the Republican Party. If you want a preview of this, look at what’s happened to Kansas and Wisconsin when Republicans have complete control of government, and then realize that the only reason those two states did not completely implode was probably because of federal money propping a baseline in their budgets.
The only solace I can take in Republicans finally having the near unilateral ability to put their long touted lean government agenda into action is that the economic fallout and desolation from such drastic policy shifts might finally jolt the working poor and minorities into reviving a progressive agenda in the coming years once they realize what limited government really means to the current GOP. That solace is in no way sweet or comforting, given the very real pain that millions of Americans are about to feel in the coming years.
Maybe I’m wrong and some vestige of moderate Republicans exist in the Senate who will tone down the incoming draconian budget we are sure to see. Maybe the filibuster will remain in tact in the Senate and allow Democrats to slow the most devastating of plans in store from the House of Representatives. I’m not holding my breath. But the notion that Trump—surrounded by some of the most radical conservatives in this country—will have the spine or intellectual capability to blunt the worst effects of this agenda, is an absolute joke. The idea that somehow a Trump administration will do anything but favor crony capitalism, corporate shareholders, and big bankers is laughable. The wolves in Congress are finally off of their leash. And Donald Trump is just following the pack.