Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Five Suggestions for the President-Elect

By now, if you are reading this blog, you know that Donald Trump is the President-Elect. This is not an "I told you so" post, for two reasons. First, of all the subjects for a blog, the horse race aspect of politics is among the least interesting to me, and there were plenty of more qualified experts to get things wildly wrong. Second, I haven't been blogging much over the last few years. Unlike when I started blogging 12 years ago, the blogosphere is now quite crowded. Just as importantly, around the start of 2015, in response to some life events and in anticipation of how unpleasant I thought this campaign would be, I just decided to focus on some other things and give myself the gift of not paying much attention in real time.

It didn't get nearly as unpleasant as I thought it would. We should actually consider ourselves a bit lucky.

For the record, I am a Republican, but I did not vote for Trump. I voted for John Kasich in the Vermont primary and Gary Johnson in yesterday's election. I simply refuse to vote for any candidate who gives clear signals that he or she will abuse power. For different but self-evident reasons, that disqualifies both Trump and Clinton. I would have voted the same way if I lived across the river in New Hampshire, where my vote might actually have mattered.

But I was also not part of this #NeverTrump movement among my fellow Republicans. Now that Trump is President-Elect, he needs support to govern from everybody. That includes me. I'll try to offer my best ideas and most thoughtful reflections from the blog, with greater frequency than during the long campaign. I will start with five ideas.

First, Trump should announce that he expects the Senate to vote on Merrick Garland's nomination before the session ends. He should not tell them his preference for whether Garland is confirmed or not. He should further scold the Republicans for not having acted on it sooner. Draining the swamp requires him to shine a light on political opportunism, regardless of which party exhibits the bad behavior. He owes no particular courtesy to Republicans who shied away from endorsing him, and so he should not spare them the criticism they deserve.

Second, he should acknowledge that our federal budget is on an unsustainable path. He should be clear with the new Congress that he expects a compromise like Simpson-Bowles, or something better, to be on his desk by Day 100. The problem is the baseline. Simpson-Bowles addresses that problem. Resetting the baseline so that it is sustainable does not absolve the Congress of its other fiscal duties, to modify the baseline annually to better reflect priorities as they evolve. This is an issue where we need to act sooner rather than later, and Presidential involvement is absolutely essential. Plus, his involvement gives Congress cover to do something politically unpopular but fiscally prudent. They might actually appreciate it. I make this suggestion in full recognition of the next one.

Third, he needs to recognize that his election coincides with a peak of the labor market, and things are only going to get more challenging from here. He needs to be thinking of rebuilding our decrepit infrastructure as a jobs program for the labor market dislocation that is sure to come. I have been preaching this for nearly 9 years now, most recently here, so I won't repeat all the details. Just make the process of setting priorities as transparent as possible.

Fourth, he should announce that he plans to have national or international summits on key policy issues for each of his first twelve months, led by his newly appointed cabinet officials and senior aides. Bringing the country together, and bringing it together with our fellow nations, requires a distinct forum for putting ideas into discussion. There is no shortage of topics -- race relations, immigration, international trade, education, surveillance, cooperation in the Americas, what's left of NATO, energy security, environmental degradation, homeland security, ... you name it. He should task his Vice President with organizing all of them, with the expectation that the lessons learned from each will inform his policy agenda over the coming years. (Yes, I am envisioning him in his role on The Apprentice as I write this.)

Fifth, he should get up to speed, like yesterday, on potential terrorist threats. The upheaval of this election is just what ISIS ordered. He needs to surround himself with a diversity of experts and listen to what they have to say.

More ideas and reflections to come.

Addendum:  A colleague points me to this recent book, The Politics of Resentment, claiming "Kathy Cramer got it right all along."

1 comment:

Tim Smeeding said...

Thanks Andy--I can only hope you are right .A good place to start to find out what is going on is Kathy Cramer's great book, The Politics of Resentment