If Not Trump, Then Who?
When the country is safe and the economy strong, anyone can be president. The converse is not true and the wrong president at the wrong time can inflict great damage on not only the country but also the world.
Some examples from history: Reagan inherited a sick economy from Jimmy Carter (remember the "misery index?"), the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and the loss of American standing in the world after the Iranian hostage crisis. He was the right president at the right time, reversing the declining fortunes in a way that Carter (or Walter Mondale) could not.
George H.W. Bush inherited a safer world and stronger economy. As an adequate but uninspired president, he surfed the Reagan wave. Bill Clinton took the same surfboard and rode the same Reagan wave, assisted by the dotcom revolution as well as fiscal responsibility ushered in by Newt Gingrich and an invigorated Republican Congress.
The world was still relatively safe and the economy was chugging along when George W. Bush took over the White House. A few months later, Islamic terrorism reared its head in the homeland on 9/11, making the world, and America, decidedly less safe. The Bush tax cuts kept the economy strong enough until the end of his term when the financial crisis kicked in, thanks in large part to Democrats forcing banks to lend money to those with no prospect of ever repaying those loans.
Bush 43, like his father, was a weak caretaker of what he inherited. Both presidents pushed elements of the progressive agenda, paving the way for a liberal backlash in the form of left-wing presidents. Americans, thinking the homeland was unsafe, the economy in dire straits after eight years of George W. Bush, and the time ripe for healing the racial divide, believed Barack Obama was the right president for troubled times.
We all know how that worked out. America and the world became less safe, the economy worsened, and optimism ran dry. Political correctness became America’s guiding principle. Racial tension rose due to identity politics and grievance-mongering. By most measures, the economy worsened under the Obama presidency as did our standing in the world, despite the views of failed presidential candidate John McCain.
Americans said, “We won’t get fooled again” with Hillary Clinton promising to double down on the failures of Obama’s eight years. Instead of taking that, they decided that a brash businessman with no political experience was the smart choice for troubled times. America was unsafe, due to terrorism, politically inspired riots, and a rise in actual crime. The economy was weak. Not a time for a caretaker president. No wave to surf. A Republican establishment president would only bob up and down in turbulent waters, easily capsized or washed onto the rocks.
Trump was the right president for the times. Sure, there were other competent and capable Republican primary candidates, but none who could have withstood the onslaught from the progressive opposition. Attacked by virtually all corporate media, academia, entertainment, deep-state bureaucrats, and even many high-horse Republicans, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich would have been annihilated, much as John McCain and Mitt Romney were in their campaigns, likely losing badly in the general election. They were all the wrong candidates at the wrong time.
Perhaps they could have fulfilled the presidency in better times under the adage, when the country is safe and the economy strong, anyone can be president. But that was not the state of the union in 2016. The voters knew it, particularly in fly-over country, even if the smart set in Washington D.C. and the nation’s newsrooms were clueless.
If we did have a President Rubio or Kasich, and they pursued anything like the Trump agenda, they would be facing and same resistance from the media and the left as Trump is now. f they capitulated to the wishes of the uni-party and the donor class, the opposition would be ratcheted down a bit, not gone, but just enough to keep the Democrat base and the Republican donor class happy. A progressive agenda, not as far left as Obama’s, but hardly conservative.
What happens going forward? For Trump to remain the right man at the right time, several things need to happen.
First, Trump must remember history. Not textbook history such as whether American has 57 states. But his campaign history. Promises made to the American people. Repeal and replace Obamacare. Tax cuts. A border wall and strong military. Avoidance of foreign military entanglements. The Supreme Court.
Second, Trump will have to continue to fight back. He has few friends and allies in Washington D.C. Instead, many in both political parties despise him. They leak to the media, as James Comey proudly admitted, and attempt to undermine him and his agenda. Fighting back means calling out the media and bypassing them as often as necessary. Large rallies, press conferences and his infamous Twitter account all provide Trump a voice to Americans that the media would otherwise try to block.
The media is its own political party, an opposition force to Trump and everything he represents. Appeasing an enemy won’t work any better than it did in Europe in the last century.
FDR had his fireside chats. Trump has his tweets. In a few sentences, he can share his policy initiatives or thoughts on current events. At times, he can troll the media with nonsensical tweets like “covfefe,” sending them scurrying across the room like dog chasing the light from a laser pointer.
Twitter is a two-edged sword, however. Tweets that contradict previous statements of Trump or his administration serve only as distractions. Just keep moving the agenda forward as that’s more productive than the cleverest tweet.
Third, he must drain the swamp. Not all of D.C., but certainly those undermining his presidency through leaks to the media. A boat will sink if leaks aren’t plugged. So will his presidency. Trump needs to heed Machiavelli’s words, “I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.”
Over 60 million voters believed Trump was the right president at the right time. Not an accident or product of Russian hacking, but a necessary piece in restoring and maintaining American greatness. The stakes were never higher.
Compare to the approach across the pond. European leaders who seek the approval of the elites and the media are presiding over the demise of their countries, abandoning their unique cultures to invaders seeing to conquer and destroy. No calls to “Make Europe Great Again.”
The history of America is being written daily. Our future depends on good decisions, including one made on November 8 of last year. This was not a time when anyone could have assumed the presidency, surfing the waves of safety and prosperity for four years. Instead there was only one logical choice and fortunately this past November, voters chose wisely.
Brian C. Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.