You may, or may not, like Trump’s agenda, but it hardly matters, because it is doomed to fail even before it gets out of the starting blocks. And the reason is not so much that part of the program is seriously flawed, but there simply is no national consensus on what to achieve, much less how to achieve it. In fact, we live in an era, created by the two-party system, where the party out of power will see it as its main mission to make the administration of the other party fail. McConnell did that to Obama and, now that the roles are reversed, Schumer will return the favor. In this atmosphere, failure of the Trump agenda is ‘baked in’ for two reasons:
In the first place, even though the Republican Party has near complete control of all the levers of power, the Trump identity is so divisive that there are a lot more people who will reject his agenda and rather see him fail than succeed, than there are people who endorse his ‘solutions’. Second, expectations have been set unrealistically high:
· We will put the coal miners back to work
· We will bring manufacturing jobs back to America from abroad
· We will keep Americans safe from terrorism
· We will produce economic growth like you have never seen before
· We will give all Americans better and cheaper healthcare
· We will rebuild American infrastructure
Laudable goals, but who would set himself up for failure like this? Only a populist demagogue whose defense is already in place: If it does not happen, it will be because of a ‘do nothing Congress’, because of the ‘entrenched establishment’ and because of the ‘lying media’. The failure of the Trump agenda will only deepen the hysteria in the partisan media and the polarization of the American people. In other words, it will pour oil on the populist fire and keep the campaign fury going, exactly the way the mastermind intends.
The real shame is that the populist bent of the Trump agenda tends to obscure and negate the positive impulses behind the plan. Clearly, increased economic growth is very desirable given the many legitimate demands put on the output of the American economy, but it is highly questionable if doubling the rate of growth, as the administration has said it wants to do, is even remotely feasible even if the nation and the Congress were united on how to achieve it and the administration had a comprehensive and cohesive growth strategy.
Better healthcare, education, national security, infrastructure and income security does not come cheap and is mostly a pipedream unless we can either significantly improve productivity or are willing to pay for it by much higher taxes (which, in turn, will risk stymieing economic growth). Economic growth can certainly get a boost from smarter business regulation of the kind Common Good and Philip K. Howard have been advocating. And it could use a more reliable, up to date and secure infrastructure, particularly in the transportation systems, the water supply, the electric grid and the cyber systems. But the Trump agenda risks negating these positive steps by its proposed protectionist trade policies, its stance on immigration and border protection and the lack of concern about the budgetary consequences of its populist wish list.
In addition to these self-inflicted hurdles to economic growth, the Trump agenda is doomed by his rhetoric, the tone of his conversation with the nation by twitter or TV, and his own election success. The democrats have been so humiliated in the 2016 election that they will be forced to rile up their base of support and the best way to do that is by taking a page out of the Trump playbook and go populist themselves (much like Bernie Sanders did in his election campaign). Fight Trump every step of the way and show the American people that the defense of the working class and the middle class, by right, belongs to the Democratic Party.
The Democrats’ focus for the next two years will only be on making Trump fail and making a spectacular comeback in the 2018 midterm elections.
There simply is no way to pull off an economic miracle under these conditions. Miracles don’t just happen, circumstances must be just right to make them happen and they are far from right at this time.