Less than a week after being elected president Donald Trump promptly showed he tricked his supporters.
Trump spent a portion of his campaign declaring he’d tackle corruption. He employed the slogan “Drain the Swamp” to claim he’d reduce lobbyists’ power.
Then when Trump’s transition team was named, it was full of lobbyists. Some represent energy companies that want to dismantle climate change regulations. Others represent tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies, telecom companies, and credit card and financial services companies. Lobbyists will recommend who holds cabinet positions plus appointed staff positions like undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, administrators, commissioners and counsels.
Other members of Trump’s transition team raise additional ethical issues. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is one name on the list. A political action committee formed to support her 2014 re-election received a $25,000 contribution from the Trump Foundation as she was considering whether to bring a fraud case against Trump University. Bondi decided against doing so. Trump paid the IRS a fine for using foundation money for a political donation.
Three of Trump’s children, who will be running his businesses, were also named, an arrangement that epitomizes conflicts of interest. We don’t know what specific conflicts exist because Trump never released his tax returns.
Lobbyists are ready to affect the regulations that really define how laws work. In a comment that can only be described as Orwellian, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Republican now with a top lobbying firm, said Trump “is going to need some people to help guide him through the swamp — how do you get in and how you get out? We are prepared to do that.”
Besides Trump’s coziness with special interests that Trump purported to fight, policy cons are on. Trump promised to build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it. After Newt Gingrich explained that probably won’t happen, he called the idea “a great campaign device” — in other words, a lie to hype up voters and get votes.
Regarding health care, Trump frequently said he’d repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, calling it “a terrible law.” But now Trump has hedged in a way that makes no policy sense. Trump says he wants to keep the part that makes insurance companies sell policies to people with pre-existing conditions. However, if that provision is included and there is no mandate to buy insurance, people could wait until they get sick to buy insurance. If there’s a mandate without subsidies to help people buy insurance, massive numbers of people with ACA policies now could not afford it. Congress and insurance companies would never accept Trump’s newfound health care policy plan.
When it comes to saving manufacturing jobs, something some of Trump’s voters care about deeply, Trump had proposed a 45 percent tariff on imported goods. After the election, a policy adviser of Trump said that’s unlikely.
Meanwhile, Trump won the election under weird circumstances. He lost the popular vote and would have lost the electoral college if 100,000 votes shifted in three states. Trump’s negative rhetoric, including hateful statements about women, racial and religious minorities and others sparked protests. Nationally there’s been an upsurge in hate crimes toward Muslims and others. Given Trump’s authoritarian statements, protesters fear threats to civil liberties and press freedom.
Other problems loom. After the election Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov acknowledged “there were contacts” with the Trump campaign, which benefited from hacked emails the intelligence community traced back to Russia; this may be investigated. A backlash arose in response to his naming of a White House adviser associated with white supremacist movements. Trump also faces 75 lawsuits related to his business.
Trump could move quickly on signing the Ryan budget. However, with massive cuts in food stamps and tax rates for the rich and privatizing of Social Security and Medicare, Trump would be embracing unpopular policies.
As a song from the musical Hamilton goes, “Winning was easy. Governing is harder.” Perhaps this is why Trump wants to spend less time in the White House than other presidents and live more in Trump Tower, and why he’d like big rallies to continue for the “instant gratification and adulation that the cheering crowds provide,” as The New York Times put it.
But if Trump doesn’t deliver and people feel conned, the cheers may turn to jeers as citizens hold him accountable.