It’s time to see if our heads can stretch around President Trump and his head can shrink enough to enter the White House and trade the Trump Jet for Air Force One. After adjusting to his diminished status, Trump is a mystery. We don’t know what Trump will do. Neither does he.
Taking the issue Trump rode out of the chute, immigration is going to be a paradigm of the Trump presidency. He’s made promises he can’t keep, and more of them than the average candidate.
He may actually try to send paramilitary law enforcement officers to the doors of 11-12 million men, women, and children. I don’t expect a U.S. Kristallnacht and the only purposeful deaths will be the odd brown person shot for “resisting.” Some Central Americans will face violent death at the other end of their deportation, but those deaths will be out of sight and out of mind.
Still, there’s a certain similarity to the situation of those who will be asked to turn in the guy who mows their lawn or the woman who cleans their house to people who harbored Jews in WWII Germany. Unlike the trek to death camps, lives are not immediately on the line, but some will be on the line and asylum hearings are unlikely to improve under Trump.
Why do I think he might actually try for a dragnet? Because Trump the candidate is no fan of civil liberties or civil rights. Candidates normally pay lip service to the Bill of Rights even if they intend to appoint judges who will find most any policy to outweigh constitutional rights.
Trump is an admirer of the Arizona “papers please” law and of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s brown shirt tendencies, so it will be an interesting time to be brown.
Treaties? Dream on. His campaign has been waged in utter disregard for international treaties about everything from tariffs to human rights. In Trumpland, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia does not matter because he is prepared to abrogate treaties with nations not labeled “domestic, dependent.”
Expect persons to be appointed to the National Indian Gaming Commission who do not “believe in” the lawful existence of Indian casinos.
Expect treaty obligations to nations whose security we (“we” very much including Indian GIs) have guaranteed since WWII to wither on the vine, and a resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons. We will test the hypothesis that more nuclear powers make nuclear war more likely.
Expect a sloppy exit from the Middle East while arms sales to the region begin to turn more on the economics of the transaction than the politics of it.
The good side of Trumpian foreign policy should be Colin Powell’s doctrine given more than lip service. When there is military intervention, it will be with massive force followed by withdrawal. No nation building and no occupation forces.
Education and environmental protection as national priorities are goners. The Cliven Bundy crowd that decries placing land under federal protection will be happy. While Trump would probably privatize the National Park Service if he could, I can’t see him spending the political capital.
If Trump gets elected, he will have the votes to abolish the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency but it’s unlikely he can herd cats well enough to radically alter the Tax Code beyond cutting rates. He wants to repeal the corporate income tax entirely, but that would take some politicking.
Police shootings of unarmed people have created a pause in ratcheting down police power on the policed. Under Trump, the pause is over and the Justice Department will be doing no investigations unless it’s the police complaining.
The reason most of Trump’s impact is a mystery is because he knows nothing of government and does not wish to learn unless he’s elected. After inauguration, he will hire “the best people” to deal with each issue. One way to tell who “the best people” are is to check their bank balance.
A Hillary Clinton administration might have an ambient corruption level that makes some people queasy, but she would be much more predictable. Like Trump, she could not do everything she has promised and she would have to prioritize. Since she has promised less radical changes, she stands a better chance of moving her agenda.
Looking at Clinton’s resume, it’s hard to name another candidate for president as well qualified. The choice between Clinton and Trump is one of the best qualified candidates in history against one of the least qualified. Presidents from the business sector have not fared well, and most of those were more successful than Donald Trump.
Clinton is an establishment candidate in a change election and she polls poorly on “honest and trustworthy” even among Democrats. Trump operates outside the world where she honed her political skills, so whether those skills will help her remains to be seen. That’s why speculation about what President Trump would do is a good idea now rather than later.
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.