Mac Deford: Donald Trump; What Hath the Electoral College Wrought?
Thursday, January 19, 2017 11:01 AM
The last few weeks or so, I’ve been recovering from a bad virus. Initially, I assumed it was just a delayed reaction to the realization that Donald Trump was soon to be president. As someone commented to me a few days ago, the drama of this misfit about to march into the White House — and his dangerous thin-skinned reaction to just about anything — would be amusing to watch if only we were Canadians viewing the show from the frozen north.
Unfortunately, we’re not just spectators, we’re participants in a reality show that may leave America weaker, or more dangerous, or more divided, or more schizophrenic — or all of the above — than pre-Trump.
The polls are sobering: only 40% have a favorable view of the man getting sworn in tomorrow; 54%, before he’s even stepped up to the plate, an unfavorable one.
Truly shocking figures: the country has never in modern history been so divided on the eve of a new presidency. Barack Obama, with all the baggage he carried in much of white America, had a 79% favorable rating on entering the White House. Jimmy Carter’s was at 78%. And so on: Bill Clinton in the high 60s; the two Bushes a few points below. The least favorable rating for an incoming president, since this survey began four decades ago, was Ronald Reagan at 58%. But even Reagan, who for many Democrats was either a second-rate Hollywood actor or an ultra-conservative right-winger, had an unfavorable rating of only 18%. Trump’s unfavorables, at 54%, are three times that.
Not surprisingly, Trump has denounced the polls as “rigged,” equating them to the “phony election polls” that did not foresee his victory. In fact, the polls had correctly predicted Hillary as the winner of the popular vote.
The Washington Post, clearly a liberal opponent of our incoming Tweeter-king, nevertheless has a mixture of liberal and conservative columnists, but two days ago they were all on the side of the looming apocalyptic threat: “Trump Has Absolutely No Idea What Black America Looks Like,’’ headlined one.
Another: “Trump Gets No Respect — That’s Because He Hasn’t Earned It.”
And two more: “Trump’s Presidency Is Doomed” and “Just When You Thought the Trump Ethics Disaster Couldn’t Get Any Worse, It Did.”
The one thing our 45th president gets positive polls on is his presumed economic expertise, with 60% of Americans apparently believing his boast that he can pump up our economic growth to above 3.5% annually. They will be sorely disappointed.
It’s not the jobs going south and east that are the big problem, it’s the ones that are staying here and being turned over to robots. And, if through some mixture of blackmail and economic penalties, Trump brings back millions of jobs from abroad, consumer costs within the US would explode and so would inflation.
In a public forum on Maine’s midcoast earlier this week, one of the questions was, “What do you think Pence’s foreign policy will be when he becomes president?” Not “if” but “when.” There seems to be a growing assumption that Trump will not make it through his four-year term: he’ll either be impeached or quit as his policies fail and his popularity crashes even further. Should one be optimistic or pessimistic about such a view?
Indeed, one of the Washington Post columnists, Richard Cohen, last week entitled a column “How To Remove Trump from Office.” The idea of getting Trump out of the White House is already pretty much mainstream — and the poor fellow hasn’t even gotten there yet. One has to go back all the way to Nixon and Watergate — which was, after all, his second term — to recall such vitriol as made up the opening paragraph of Cohen’s column: “Donald Trump is a one-man basket of deplorables. He is a braggart and a liar. He is a bully and a demagogue. He is an ignoramus and a deadbeat, a chiseler and either a sincere racist or an insincere one.” He concluded by proposing “a constitutional coup,” an unlikely approach, he acknowledged, based on the 25th Amendment.
But if Cohen’s negatives were just a description of Trump’s personal shortcomings, what’s considerably more nerve-wracking are Trump’s views on foreign policy. He’s publicly snubbed China in favor of Taiwan. He’s attacked NATO as obsolete and come out so strongly in support of Russia’s Vladimir Putin that Putin launched a public defense of Trump against his domestic US critics. His choice as the US ambassador to Israel has publicly espoused Israel’s annexing large parts of the West Bank, thus permanently assuring the impossibility of the two-state solution. He also wants to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv — the site of every foreign embassy — to Jerusalem, which would assure the evaporation of what little remaining influence the US has in the Arab world.
As Trump attacks the CIA director, in addition to belittling the pre-eminent civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis, one can’t help but think that Trump is not just an “ignoramus” as Cohen termed him, but somehow a weird mixture of narcissism and self-hatred. Is his goal to wrack up as many enemies in as many different constituencies as possible? If so, how will he survive the next four years? Indeed, how will the country?
And, perhaps more relevantly, what can we do to prevent a future Trump? If his presidency is as disastrous as his pre-presidency indicates, the US presumably will return to more traditional choices — the Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party in 2020 vs. the Mitt Romney of the Republican one. Or maybe not. Maybe the electorate will be driven berserk and choose an even less qualified demagogue, a Trump-squared, to deal with our frustrations.
Before we face that possibility, here’s a constructive proposal: let’s get rid of the Electoral College. It’s done us no good. It was designed some 225 years ago, with the thought that a sophisticated set of elite citizens could protect us, if necessary, from the erratic views of the majority (granted, the voters in those days were only white male landowners). And indeed the Electoral College has twice, in the last five presidential elections, overturned the majority’s will. But not quite with the results our Founding Fathers imagined. First the Electoral College gave us George W. Bush — and the Iraq War (and all that proceeded from that).
And now Donald Trump — and who knows what will proceed from that. The Electoral College must go.