It’s still hard wrapping my brain around the words “President Donald Trump” — but there are strategies for moving in that direction. Indeed, I’ve come up with three comforting thoughts about the next how-many years.
1) Trump has no fixed principles. He’s not a real conservative, which presents some interesting possibilities for those of a more liberal bent.
For example, he’s talked about having the federal government negotiate with drugmakers for lower Medicare prescription prices — a capital idea that Democrats have been promoting forever.
This comforting thought is tempered by the strong possibility that Trump will not do it. Here’s why:
It’s a non-alternative fact that pharmaceutical company stocks swooned when Hillary Clinton seemed close to victory. They rose after Trump won, but on the very day he accused the drug companies of “getting away with murder,” pharmaceutical and biotech stock prices plunged. Were Trump to tweet “never mind,” they’d probably shoot up again.
If his circle of friends and family got wind of these market-moving tweets in advance, they could make a pile. Of course, that would be insider trading and illegal.
The day Trump bashed the F-35 fighter jet over costs, shares of its maker, Lockheed Martin, fell nearly 2.5 percent. But the stock price started its rapid descent six minutes before the tweet went out.
2) Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. This is not to question his presidential legitimacy. The Electoral College decides the winner. We are only noting the obvious: Many people voted for him, but “the people” did not. And since the election, Trump’s approval ratings have taken a steeper dive.
Sure, he and his surrogates can fight off numbers showing sparse attendance at the inauguration. They can dismiss the millions who protested his inauguration. But the people who count know how to count. Journalists, government officials, Democrats and Republicans are clearly losing their fear of Donald J. Trump.
John Brennan showed an astounding lack of reverence when an aide relayed the former CIA director’s deep anger at “Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes.” Brennan, the aide added, believes that Trump “should be ashamed of himself.”
Guess Trump’s habitual bashing of the intelligence community and his earlier remark likening the CIA to Nazis didn’t go over so well.
Norms of political discourse don’t get turned off for one side and not the other. With Trump’s popularity bleeding away, gloves are coming off all over Washington.
3) There’s comfort in knowing that with real power, Trump can no longer get away with contradictory positions. On such matters as Obamacare, there will be consequences whether Trump does one thing, the opposite or nothing. And should those consequences involve hurting ordinary people, no amount of populist hypnosis is going to convince them otherwise.
Trump’s executive order directing government agencies to ditch provisions of the Affordable Care Act that impose a financial or regulatory burden has heightened anxiety among insurers and the public. For example, the mandate to buy health coverage or pay a fine could be interpreted as a burden. If it were to be weakened, more healthy people would drop out of the health care exchanges, leaving insurers saddled with a sicker population. The exchanges would collapse.
Now, that may be Trump’s game plan. Kill the ACA without putting Republican fingerprints on a straightforward repeal. Make the public believe it died of natural causes.
I doubt that’s going to work. The people don’t like having security taken away from them. Note I said “the people.”
Cold comfort, perhaps, but let’s take comfort where we find it.