Tomorrow the Electoral College will formally cast their vote for the next President of the United States of America, and the outcome is nearly certainly going to be that President-Elect Trump will continue to be President-Elect Trump. Despite the fact that he did not win the popular vote, and notwithstanding concerns over Russia attempting to sway to outcome toward Trump, we can expect the peaceful transfer of power to continue on schedule. (Note: as of right now there is no claim that Russia actually attempted to impact the actual vote counting – only that they attempted to impact public opinion prior to the actual election.)
Some have commented that we should wish the President-Elect success in his new role, even if we didn’t support him; if he succeeds we succeed, and if he fails we fail. It seems reasonable that we shouldn’t want the country to fail. I, however, don’t think this holds up well to scrutiny. We need to be more specific about what it is that he wants to succeed at, and whether that would really translate into success for us as a nation. So what does President-Elect Trump want to do during his tenure?
First and foremost, Trump wants to “make America great again.” This is an insipid statement, at best. No meaningful metric can be applied to “great.” All we know for certain is that Trump does not think we are great now, but that we were at some unspecified time in the past. I’m all for America being great, but without knowing what the situation was the last time Trump thinks we were great I can’t say whether getting there again would truly be a success.
Immigration has been a huge topic during the election campaign. Mr. Trump thinks we can solve a large part of the immigration problem by building a wall along the southern border. This presumes that the majority of illegal immigration is facilitated by a porous southern border, through which most undocumented immigrants arrive. About 45% of undocumented immigrants arrive legally on visas and then stay beyond the visas’ limit, rather than by illegally crossing a border in the first place, and those undocumented immigrants come from all over the world. Even if all of the other 55% cross the southern border – which is unlikely – the wall would fail to address the overstay issue.
The construction of the wall and its upkeep would be enormously expensive. Trump has said that the government of Mexico will pay for the wall, but the government of Mexico says it won’t. At one point Trump announced that he would pressure Mexico to pay for the wall by amending the Patriot Act to prohibit billions in wire transfers to Mexico from the US annually. There are legal issues with this, as well as a GAO finding that Trump’s numbers included vast amounts of money not originating from the US, and so on the face of it this plan seems infeasible. Trump has revealed no alternative strategy to coerce payment out of the Mexican government, though we might presume the cost would be offset through some sort of trade agreement, by which the Mexican government would indirectly “pay” for the wall. However, without a specific proposal and numbers to crunch there is no way to know if such a plan could plausibly be implemented, so we will have to presume that we would absorb all or most of the $25 billion (initial) cost of the wall.
So far there isn’t much to indicate that moving forward with a wall would warrant success for our country, at least in terms of fiscal policy or actually reducing illegal immigration by more than 55%. Asa further fiscal consideration, many businesses employ migrant laborers that enter illegally in order to keep costs low (by paying unethically low wages and providing no benefits). Reducing the number of such migrants would necessarily translate into higher prices for certain commodities and decreased tax revenue. In this respect, it seems a policy that specifically targets Mexicans (and other Central- and South-American migrants) exclusively with no discernable benefit. This hardly constitutes a success, but is certainly ethnically discriminatory.
Another facet of Trump’s immigration policy focused on stopping immigration of Muslims. This is blatant religious discrimination, and so eventually Trump would re-cast the concern in terms of high-risk countries – which are coincidentally Muslim. The numbers from 2015 indicate that in the US the threat of terrorism is still primarily not from Muslims and the odds of being hurt or killed by any sort of terrorist is still far lower than being hurt or killed in non-terror-related crime, or by accident. A program that discriminates religiously is inconsistent with the values of this country, and when such a program has no opportunity to reduce risk in any way it cannot be considered a success. Given that such programs have been cited by Muslim terrorists in their propaganda for recruiting purposes, I would say such an administrative policy is a decided failure.
Trumps calls for a Muslim registry and of targeted surveillance of mosques are unconstitutional (think 1st and 4th amendments) and would not reduce the risk of terrorism. Again, they instead serve as fuel for terrorists to recruit and radicalize rather than deterring terrorism. That is a policy failure. His calls for increased surveillance in general and for invasive policing and stricter sentencing are predicated on bald-faced lies, principally that crime is “the highest it’s been in 45 years” when in fact it is near a 50-year low. Such policies claim to address a non-existent problem, and will serve only to exacerbate the systemic racial bias in policing and increase the mistrust for policy within minority populations. This is a policy failure.
Trump supports a whole-sale repeal of the PPACA that will leave millions uninsured and will not likely result in significant decreases in premiums. He supports reductions for programs that support the people most in need of help while providing tax cuts for those who do not require tax relief. This is a continuation of economic policies initiated under the Reagan administration that have proven ineffective for nearly four decades, resulting in an ever-widening wealth gap. Trumps policies will further widen that gap and will not create new job opportunities. These are policy failures. Trump continues to nominate his rich cronies to senior advisory positions within his cabinet; people who largely have no experience within and/or are ideologically at odds with the role to which they are being nominated. It is a recipe for policy disaster. This is a policy failure. There is also huge potential for (and current indications of) conflicts of interest in his foreign policies given the global nature of his businesses. A success for Trump may not represent a success for America.
This isn’t a complete list of every policy position, and there are certain policy positions that arguably could be beneficial. However, these were some of the core positions, and if he is successful in implementing many or all of these ideas then that will not register as a success for the country overall. I submit then that we do not need to root for success in these specific cases. We need to do everything we can to make sure policies that further disenfranchise minority groups, are blatantly unconstitutional, and that benefit the ultra-rich at the expense of the rest of the nation are not allowed to move forward. Despite his campaign claims to the contrary, his economic and trade policies are unlikely to benefit most working Americans. His foreign policies are more likely to align with short-term business goals than long-terms strategic interests for the country. This is not the kind of “success” that we should root for.
I’ll root for an American success, which may necessitate a failure of many of Trump’s proposals.