By the votes we cast and by the votes we didn’t cast, the citizens of the United States elected Donald J. Trump to the presidency. He is now installed in the wheelhouse of the most powerful office in the world. Many things are possible from that wheelhouse; it can be used to steer or scold, build or bumble on. In his first days in office, Trump has chosen to use the office as a wrecking ball.
- In the nomination of Scott Pruitt and the issuance of a gag order, he has declared his intention to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.
- In his nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, he has delivered a body blow to equal quality public education.
- In his nomination of Andrew Puzder to be Labor Secretary, he has undermined the federal minimum wage and other key labor protections.
- In an Executive Order he has declared his intention to rip apart the Affordable Care Act, risking the loss of health care coverage for millions of Americans.
- In another Executive Order he has declared his intention to inflame relations with our southern neighbor and threatened a wider trade war.
- In still another Executive Order, he has ripped apart decades of policy towards immigrants and refugees, signaled a hostility to Muslims around the world, and threatened the Constitutional protection for freedom of religion.
- In a Presidential Memorandum he has reinstalled and expanded the ‘Mexico City Policy’, creating havoc in family planning activities across the globe.
- In another Presidential Memorandum, he has withdrawn from negotiations regarding the TransPacific Partnership and cast doubt on NAFTA and other international trade agreements.
- In all these he has cast doubts on the values and commitments of the United States of America. He is tearing apart this country’s promises to its own people and its promises to the rest of the world.
For the past few decades, the central strategy of the Republican Party has to been to shrink the federal government, in its domestic programs and policies, by reducing taxes and then insisting on a lower deficit. (War making and defense spending have been another matter.) The Grover Norquist pledge, and his promise to reduce the size of the federal government to make it small enough to drown in a bathtub, are the epitome of this strategy. Thus did Republicans in Congress oppose every constructive step of the Obama administration.
Trump now presents the nation with a new strategy towards the same goal: swing a wrecking ball. Will Republican leaders in Congress go along? Day by day we are finding out.
More importantly, will the American people stand up against this wrecking ball presidency? We are in the midst of finding that out, too. One difficulty is the challenge of coordinating action across millions of dissenters who oppose these steps when the wrecker-in-chief has control of the wheelhouse. Trump can scatter our energies by swiftly turning his wrecking ball from one site to another: now immigration! now education! now health care! now trade! To whom can we look for coordinated leadership?
A further difficulty is that we have to do more than stop the wreckage. We do not simply want to try to piece back together the policies and programs towards which the wrecking ball is directed. We do not want to imply that all is well with health care, or that all is well with education or immigration.
We have serious work to do in stopping this wrecking ball presidency.