Image Credits: AP Photo/Alex Brandon.
I long ago lost interest in speculation about how Donald Trump’s presidency could have been different or better. The man is fatally flawed and incapable of adaptation. He’s also crazy and never had the slightest interest in governing. At best, he had a genuine desire to fulfill his campaign promises, but he didn’t have any idea how to accomplish this if it involved more than instructing some underling to make it happen. Often, he asked those underlings to violate the law, the Constitution, or their conscience, and many times his directives were simply ignored as a result.
There’s a sense in which he could have been more of a true maverick, taking on his party and seeking out novel coalitions to create bipartisan efforts to address topics like trade, immigration, infrastructure, and entitlement reform. But he was so toxic to Democrats by the time he was inaugurated that this would have been difficult even if he’d been capable of attempting it, which he wasn’t.
I did find it surprising that he adopted a strategy of letting congressional Republicans pursue tax cuts and a conservative federal judiciary, even though that’s exactly what they would have done if Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio had been elected. I thought there was a possibility that he’d position himself as more of a cultural moderate and more of a genuine economic populist, but he chose to stay a mainstream conservative troglodyte on economic issues and as a hard-right culture warrior.
I guess the reason this surprised me was because I thought Trump had one obvious skill, which was a keen sense for what people want, and that he’d see the political advantage of keeping some distance from establishment Republicans. He had decimated them in the primaries so I didn’t anticipate that he’d let them drive his agenda in Congress. I see now that this was a result of his laziness and stupidity, and perhaps a need to have them protect him from the Russia investigation, rather than a political decision aimed at helping his reelection.
In the end, his presidency was a just a fat, racist dude spending all day online talking shit about people. Some people liked it, but most people didn’t. The consequences were catastrophic long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. There was never any chance that Trump would be a good president, or even a competent one.