Thursday, November 10, 2016

Does Donald Trump Have an Ebenezer Scrooge Moment in Him?

His whole lifetime Donald Trump has channeled Ebenezer Scrooge in his quest for boundless riches, often at the expense of the everyman. He stiffed contractors. He wouldn’t rent to minorities to keep his property values high. He chiseled widows and other desperate souls yearning for a semblance of his wealth out of thousands of dollars spent on Trump University tuitions and affiliated expenses. He pandered to the wistful by opening casinos to exploit their get rich quick fantasies. He ran a campaign for the highest office in the land and didn’t pay many of his hired professionals.

I can’t imagine what Trump dreams as he lies next to Melania. If the nation is fortunate, perhaps he will be visited by specters of lives past, present and future. I’ll leave it to others to psychoanalyze exactly which personalities would enter his subconscious.

But if we’re lucky, just as Scrooge changed after visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Trump’s nocturnal apparitions will channel a change from his scorched earth campaign rhetoric. Aides and friends, after all, are saying he will be “a softer, kinder” Trump as president.

Does that mean he will not deport “dreamers,” those illegal immigrants brought to the United States as infants who have not known any other country? Will he resist separating families, deporting illegal alien parents from children born the United States and therefore able to stay as citizens? If he tears up NAFTA and causes the loss of jobs in Mexico, is he ready to deal with an influx of more illegal immigrants, wall or no wall? Will he abandon his ideas to reinstitute torture and to kill the families of terrorists, actions that could prompt resignations from military and security officials? With his Mar-a-Lago home and resort on the beach in Florida, will he be ready to concede the effects of climate change? Will he fend off Evangelicals in their determination to roll back same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equality laws?

Now that he’s been elected, he’s officially a politician and the first job of any politician is to get re-elected. Keep in mind Trump did not win the popular vote. He secured more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton. The conventional wisdom espoused by many pundits, including yours truly, is that Trump was elected by racists, misogynists, neo Nazis, anti-Semites and xenophobes.

But that denies the reality that disaffected blue collar white voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin—men and women who twice had voted for Barack Obama—abandoned the Democratic Party in favor of Trump and Republican senatorial candidates. They didn’t overnight become racists, misogynists, neo Nazis, anti-Semites and xenophobes.

They chose populism over traditional Democratic memes. They swallowed his promise of radical change and revived manufacturing jobs.

So Trump must deliver within four years without reducing their health care benefits, regardless of what he does to Obamacare.

Which begs the question, would Bernie Sanders have prevailed over Trump? As a populist himself, would Bernie have negated Trump’s cross-party appeal? We will never know. What we are left with is the reality that we were thisclose to electing the first woman or the first Jewish president.

Trump is an enigma. We don’t really know what he stands for since he has walked back many of his earlier pronouncements, including a tweet from 2012 wherein he called the Electoral College “a disaster for a democracy.” Doubtful he thinks so today.

A most troubling potential aspect of a Trump presidency is who he will include in his inner circle. Ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Steven Bannon of Breitbart are divisive figures who would signal a hard right administration. The danger is that Trump would delegate policies to cronies with more reactionary thoughts than his. It’s especially apropos of vice president-elect Mike Pence, decidedly more radically conservative in voice and action than Trump ( or for another take read

Before Trump, Richard Nixon probably was the president-elect (and president) most reviled by Democrats. But Nixon took some decidedly progressive actions. He created the Office of Minority Business Enterprise in 1969; achieved voluntary desegregation of schools in seven Southern states; reoriented the Federal Native American policy, becoming the first president to encourage tribal self-determination; established the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and signed into law The Clean Air Act; abolished voter discriminatory tests by extending the Voting Rights Act in 1970; declared war on cancer; and signed Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits gender bias at colleges and universities receiving Federal aid.

Nixon also changed U.S. relationships with China and the Soviet Union. He signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 1) in 1972.

True, Nixon wasn’t always progressive. But his legacy offers clear evidence that the presidency can bring about goodness. 

So, over the next four years we will wait to see if Trump remains the Ebenezer Scrooge of the beginning of A Christmas Carol or if he emerges as the reformed Scrooge at its conclusion.