There is a sense of doom that has plagued a lot of the political commentary I have read over the past week. After everything we’ve seen and heard from Donald Trump, there is a very real fear that none of it will actually stop the Republican candidate from taking over the White House. But as extraordinarily unorthodox as Trump may be, even he cannot escape the political bureaucracy that comes with the job. It’s time we consider that Donald Trump the candidate may not be the same Donald Trump we see as president.
Whatever you think of the media mogul, no one can deny that Trump embodies what millions of disaffected voters are craving for in Washington — change. In 2008 I remember a young, bright-eyed senator from Illinois with a similar vibe. That year Barack Obama won because he wooed the American people with hopeful promises of a better future.
But eight years later many of those promises have been left behind. Obama once vowed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; after a 2013 Senate bill that went nowhere and a deadlocked 4-4 Supreme Court decision, that promise remains in purgatory.
By 2011 he vowed to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour; it's 2016 and the minimum wage is still at $7.25.
In 2008 he famously said that “no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.” Anyone who is currently not insured under the Affordable Care Act might beg to differ.
These broken pledges are not just Obama's burden to bear. The president has had to battle two of the most unproductive Congress sessions in recent history. His beloved Affordable Care Act has faced relentless opposition from Republican lawmakers, state governments and various lawsuits. Obama may hold the highest executive office in the country but our government operates in system of checks and balances; for the most part the president’s power only goes as far as our legislative and judicial branches allow.
The same will hold true for Donald Trump should he become our next leader. His extreme commitments to build a wall against Mexico, ban immigration from Muslim-majority countries, and “drain the swamp” will very likely butt heads with both Democratic and Republican congressmen eager to temper a man who couldn’t be tamed during campaign season. His rhetoric will turn into executive orders and when those executive orders face the threat of being unconstitutional they will stall, just as President Obama’s did, until the Supreme Court makes a decision.
In the face of real opposition, away from the fervent support of his fans, Trump will be forced to compromise with the very system he vowed to change. His words will become softer, his stances more moderate until the hot-headed businessman becomes the mild-mannered politician that Republicans wanted him to be.
So much for the anti-establishment revolution that voters were hoping for.
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow argued yesterday that “Trump as president is America’s nightmare scenario, an election that would herald the end of the empire.” As long as there are three branches of government the American empire is not going anywhere. That is the both the beauty and horror of the political system we live in — even the most rebellious among us can be beaten into submission.
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