“He’s a chaos candidate, and he’d be a chaos president.” (GOP debate, 12-16); and “so far, chaos organizes the presidency” (SALT conference, 5-17) – both by Jeb Bush
In 2016, many voters were alienated. They were disgusted with the unresponsive two party system, and for good reason given the misrepresentations by both parties.
So, they voted for the maverick wild card and Trump won the Electoral College (but not the popular vote). Russian interference may or may not have caused him to win. Regardless, the atmosphere of partisan discontent and distrust which enabled their meddling to have an impact already existed and continues to this day.
As a result, we elected the most inexperienced, divisive, and chaotic President in modern history. No matter where you look, there is domestic and international conflict which is caused or provoked by Trump, most recently his tariff policy. Such disruption is inevitably and gleefully made much worse by him.
The only consistency in the Trump administration is that there is inconsistency and chaos. My opinion, and that of many other observers, is that there are many reasons why, including: A) Trump has virtually no understanding of either domestic or foreign policy issues; B) The President does not listen to his advisors (for example, Cohn regarding trade) and may not even understand what they are telling him; C) He is a wealthy bully accustomed to getting his way; D) He enjoys disruption; E) Trump is a dictatorial, tweeting showman who seeks the approval of the crowds; and F) the President does not have a firm set of moral values guiding him. The publication of Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” just reinforces what we already knew about our President.
There are so many examples of the chaos in this administration that it is hard to narrow the scope within this brief column, but let’s just start with Charlottesville. Immediately after the brutal murder of a peaceful protester by an avowed racist, Trump stated that the racists and anti-racists were essentially the same and that both were equally at fault.
After his staff saw the fallout, Trump then reversed himself a few days later in a prepared speech which he read off a teleprompter. Since then, he has essentially gone back to his original position that both sides were to blame. His vacillation has torn apart national race relations, setting us back decades.
Then we have the healthcare debacle, probably the best instance of Trump throwing a wrench in the works of government. Up until Trump decided to run for office a decade ago, he was strongly in favor of a single payer system (Medicare for everyone). He stated this fact repeatedly throughout the years, as I have documented elsewhere. Candidate Trump also said everyone would be fully covered at a lower cost under his plan to replace Obamacare.
He then nominated Rep. Tom Price, who was on record as not only wanting to destroy Obamacare, but also do away with Medicaid and Medicare as we know them.
Price and Speaker Ryan subsequently crafted Trumpcare, which did not do what Trump had promised and was soundly rejected by the American people and Senate GOP moderates, but only after tremendous conflict and confusion. Via the abolition of the individual mandate as part of the tax bill, market confusion has only increased.
Trump may or may not understand how the healthcare market works. Regardless, he has created tremendous instability which is reflected in the tremendous premium increases last year and which will be worse this year in 2018. He has further compounded this instability by first saying he wanted a bi-partisan short-term fix to Obamacare and then rejecting the compromise proposal after Senators Alexander(R) and Murray (D) came up with one (rumors are he is backtracking once again, saying he now supports stabilization). At the same time, he has chosen to stop the premium subsidies for low income people, shaking the insurance market and driving up premiums.
Before the election, Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith accurately warned (10-24-16, Time) what Trump would do via his statements and Executive Orders if he became President. He accurately predicted “initiatives which are ill-conceived as opposed to lawless” which included actions to “tear up international agreements on trade and security” and “discriminate on the basis of race and national identity and to suppress the press.” Goldsmith further stated “his temperamental and ill-informed statements can destroy the confidence by which markets and international cooperation depend.”
Due to space, I will not go into detail about the Trump administration’s wild policy swings and misstatements regarding various allies and adversaries or the administration’s inaccurate statements about who benefits from tax reform. Likewise, I will not deal with the national and international upheaval caused by his new policy of tariffs or his older ones of pushing coal production and pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change.
Unfortunately, the fun never ends with Trump. He truly enjoys creating chaos and sees it as an extremely useful tool in solidifying his base, which he has done. We can expect more disruption and little in the way of positive long-term legislative accomplishments over the next three years.
If Goldsmith knew what was in store for us before the election, why didn’t enough voters in swing states? Choose wisely in 2018 and 2020. The choice of bi-partisan cooperation and progress versus chaos is ultimately up to you, the voter.