“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
That is what Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet and that classic line comes to mind every time I hear my fellow citizens who are Trump supporters recite all the blessings the Trump administration bestows on us: the upbeat economy, the record Wall Street performance, the cutbacks in regulatory burden, and the more assertive way in which America is confronting challenges from China, North Korea and Iran.
The analogy is imperfect – like most analogies are – but the point is that these blessings could have been and would have been bestowed upon America if we had had a different, or should I say ‘real’, Republican in the White House. In other words, the reality is that if the GOP had nominated someone else than Donald J. Trump in 2016, the rose would have smelt as sweet (and there would be a lot less acrimony in the land).
It is water under the bridge, because the elections of 2016 have given us what we have today, but it is good to realize that in two years we have a new choice to make and maybe this time the voters will take character, experience and competency into consideration.
America could have enjoyed a strong economy and stock market performance, stimulated by close scrutiny and pruning of unnecessarily burdensome regulations, without disregard of the growing inequality between privileged and underprivileged citizens; without disregard of the looming national debt explosion; without disregard of the contributions immigrants make to the vitality of our economy; without disregard of the scientific evidence of global warming; and without a zero-sum approach to the trade relations America enjoys with other nations.
With respect to foreign policy, America could have solidified its global position of leadership and strength without alienating its traditional allies; without giving up on the liberal order America itself established following World war II; without bluff and bluster in lieu of carefully crafted and strategically focused diplomacy; and without a zero-sum approach to friend or foe relationships with powerful contenders for world hegemony, particularly the EU, China and Russia.
In both domains, the domestic and international environment, chances are that a real Republican (I call it ‘my kind of Republican’) would have better advanced America’s interest than the nativist, populist, narcissist person the Electoral College placed into the White House in 2017. In the first place, any 45th President would have enjoyed the fruits of the Obama era policies that brought the strength of our economy back coming out of the recession of 2008. Job creation was as strong in the last two years of the Obama administration as it has been in the first two years of the Trump reign.
Equities are now enjoying their ninth year of a record strong bull market, a trend that started long before Donald J. Trump was even running for office. The Trump tax bill, may have spurred the market to new heights, but how long is it going to be before the resulting deficit increases will start hurting the prospects for the future, for Wall Street as well as Main Street? Any President will always take credit for a booming economy and will always be blamed for a failing one, but how much of the up or down is really directly attributable to the actions or omissions of the person in the Oval Office?
Arguably, the economy could easily have been stronger and more sustainably growing if it was not for the misguided Trump policies that stand in the way of free trade, smart and compassionate immigration, fiscal restraint and entitlement reform.
Does anybody believe that, if the GOP had nominated my kind of Republican rather than the imposter who bullied himself up onto the platform in 2016, America would not have enjoyed, at least for the time being, the relative prosperity the nation as a whole experiences? My kind of Republican would have taken advantage of the favorable economic conditions by beginning to solve some of the problems that the predecessors have failed to address, like the out of control national debt, our crumbling infrastructure, our unfunded entitlements, our defense against cyber threats and the consequences of global warming and, most of all, our ever-increasing inequality in income and wealth.
The Clinton administration has rightly been chastised for squandering the post-cold war prosperity by not reinvesting in the American people and infrastructure and, rather than praising Trump for the superficial and unevenly divided prosperity of today, he should be chastised for not making hay while the sun shines. Is it coincidental that both Presidents have exhibited serious character flaws and struggles with morality?
My kind of Republican would have joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a constructive counterweight to the Chinese influence in Asia; called Mexico and Canada to the table to review, after almost 25 years, how NAFTA could be strengthened; stayed with the Paris Climate accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal; and called our NATO partners to the table to reassess the mission and the burden sharing formula for the defense of Western Alliance. My kind of Republican would have done all of that in a collegial, non-threatening, way, confident in America’s soft power and guided by the belief that the world is better off with an alliance of all democracies, lead by a strong, principled and disciplined United States of America.
That which we call America would be greater if the name plate on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW said something else than Donald J. Trump.