This election was, if nothing else, a resounding rejection of the Obama legacy, just as it definitively rejected the kind of platform Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy promised: more spending, more taxes, more government in our lives and, of course, unilateral enforcement of the political left’s overarching agenda of economic regulation, social policy change and climatism, whether the rest of America agreed with any of it or not. From Obamacare to the President’s bureaucratic rule–making practices (by which he expanded federal power over areas never before subordinated to the will of Washington), to his executive actions issued to circumvent the constitutional authority of Congress, voters in this country have now definitively rejected it all via the surprise election of Donald Trump to the presidency. I thought Trump was too divisive and could never successfully send this message or reach enough voters to reverse the dominance of a surging political left in this country. I was wrong.
Trump may have been a flawed messenger, even deeply flawed as many of us believe, but he offered an antidote to Obamaism (the rampant use of executive power to ride roughshod over everybody else) — an antidote a majority of the country obviously decided to take. If a President Trump now shows himself magnanimous and sensible, thoughtful and respectful of the office he will hold and the people he will serve, then he may well succeed in restoring Americans’ confidence in themselves and their society as the great majority of us hope. But President Obama leaves some serious problems for the incoming Trump administration to deal with, not least being the growing fiscal mess. As a recent Wall Street Journal editorial points out, “the days of easy deficit reduction [which benefited Obama] are over. The annual deficit in 2016 rose for the first time in three years—by $148 billion to $587 billion. That’s 3.2% of GDP, up sharply from 2.5% last year. Mr. Obama has been able to ride falling defense spending from reduced military deployments overseas, but Pentagon outlays were flat in 2016. Military spending will probably have to increase in future years . . . to meet the growing challenges from Russia, China and Iran.” Challenges, it should be noted, which have arisen in reaction to President Obama’s failed policies on the international stage.
President-Elect Trump will have to deal with this which won’t make his job any easier. As the editorial writers added, Obama “will also leave town having failed over eight years to do anything to slow the booming burden of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Outlays for those three programs grew by $75 billion last year, or about 4.2%. They now account for 10% of the entire U.S. economy, the highest level ever, and rising.”
One hopes that the Trump prescription of lowering taxes and reducing regulation will be followed through and contribute to righting our listing economic ship in the wake of the outgoing president’s economically repressive policies, including his having “put Medicaid on hyperspeed by expanding its coverage through ObamaCare.” President Obama “spent his political capital not on growing the economy,” the Journal reminds us, “but on growing entitlements and raising costs for business via regulation.” All of this imposes serious economic drag on the nation, going forward, and Trump will have to fix this, and more, while trying to resolve expanding conflicts and instability abroad and reducing the startling divisiveness that has appeared in recent years here at home by making himself the leader of the whole country, not just of those angry factions that catapulted him to the presidency.
Is he up to it? We’ll have to see. He’ll need to moderate his tone, step back from the performance art of campaigning that he perfected to a fare-thee-well during the recent election process, and reach out to the nation, including those who did not, and maybe still cannot, see in him the leader they desired. It’s a tall order for any president but especially for the incoming Trump who has been so divisive, himself, in his own rhetoric since his advent onto the national stage. But it also falls to us to give him a path to do what he has promised in restoring the American economy and the American soul. Is he the kind of man who can be expected to do that? Well he has surprised many of us repeatedly, me included. Those who opposed him throughout now have an obligation under our American system to step back and give him room to be the president he‘s promised to be, a president of all Americans. As a confirmed NeverTrumper, I hope he proves me to have been completely wrong, since he first declared for the presidency, and that he makes our country strong, respected and prosperous again in this, our wild and very woolly world. I may not have voted for him in the recent election but, at least for now, he has my vote . . . and my hope.