There aren’t many things that are as difficult as winnng the election for President of the United States. One of those things is quite predictable though. And that is actually being the President of the United States.
Campaigning for office is a brutal endeavor these days. It’s hard to feel good about our nominees at the top of the ticket when the voting decision is reduced to a mere comparison of their most offensive sins and doomsday scenarios. The campaign noise is blocking the electorate from learning the real men and women running anymore.
To the victors of our modern style of selection go the spoils. But being victorious on the stump does not automatically translate into success in office. In fact, the relationship between campaign success and governing success seems more estranged than ever.
The most recent leeching of our national souls has left many voters exhausted and defeated with the outcome, even before the newly elected government takes power. I was as surprised as anyone at Donald Trump’s victory speech and call for unity on election night, because I mistakenly thought he meant it.
Look no further than the cast of characters he is pooling for leadership roles in his new administration as the source of my certainty on this. With Reince Priebus as the president’s chief of staff and Steve Bannon as his strategic advisor, it is clear where America’s ship is heading. Priebus is coming from the leadership of the national GOP, a naturally and unapologetically partisan job. Bannon represents the alt-right movement, which enthuses hate groups like the KKK, but doesn’t do much for the majority of all voters who were already scared of Trump’s America.
Trump’s stated desire for unity on election night, and similar “give him a chance” mantras by those desperately clinging to remnants of optimism are both hard to stomach after the Priebus/Bannon moves of the first week. Leaders are often only as good as their team, and the top two draft choices on this new team do not know government. They do know divisiveness and brand development, but the usefulness of those skills largely ended November 8.
Then there are actual policy and process matters that much of the public is too tired to delve into so soon. The president-elect announced he wants to implement term limits in congress, an idea Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately killed. There goes that pesky three branches of government thing the campaign thought was a passing fad.
This misstep was followed up with Trump hinting that he would call a special session of congress to pass the “repeal and replace” legislation for the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to in campaign land as Obamacare. One problem with this idea is that congress doesn’t know exactly what that bill should look like after six years of frothing over it’s demise. I know that sounds impossible but it is true. Read an excellent description of the challenge here.
Another comedic problem with the calling of a “special session” on Inauguration Day to pass and sign the mysterious GOP solution is that, well, congress will already be in session. So the dramatic move announced is even more impossible, in uniquely hilarious ways, than our new president dreamed.
This is a warning sign America. Our new leader has a couple of months to cram for the biggest job on the planet, and he is not even hiring the best tutors available for his sixty night series of all nighters.
And this is the easy stuff. I have said or written every day since the election what the new administration’s biggest challenge is. It is that they will only have a couple of years to make America great, or more accurately, greater, to all of these people who bought their sales pitch during the campaign.
I spent ten years of my youth in Appalachia, and I still have family there. That stretch of the country voted for Trump and they believe things are looking up now. But what measurable improvement will exist there in November of 2018? Will wages be better, health care cheaper, and the threat of more manufacturing job losses to foreign lands and automation be a thing of the past? No.
Will the Mexican wall be built and the threat of cultural diversity be banished to the other side of it? Of course not.
The people chanting at this year’s rallies might just as easily don torches and pitchforks in two years. I recommend the campaign guys start training their supporters to be patient, because the patient supporters will soon be their only friends.
I have always said Trump is unfit for the office. That debate is behind us now. Winning that election was a truly amazing accomplishment. I congratulate him and the army of people who helped make it happen.
But now comes the hard part. And so far, he is surprising even me at how badly unprepared for this he really is.