Eight years ago, when Barack Obama had just taken the Presidential oath of office, I wrote that it was “The Highpoint of the Obama Presidency,” and I see no reason not to say just about the same thing about the Trump Presidency today.
As the most populist presidential candidate in a long time, Trump’s supporters have been projecting their hopes and dreams onto him for almost two years. He’s been Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised, reflecting back their heart’s desire.
That’s all about to change. Starting today, his ambitions are going to get a lot more specific and concrete than just “Make America Great Again.” Starting today, we’re going to judge him not just on what he says, but on what he does and—even more importantly—on what he accomplishes.
If you have high hopes for Trump, he’s going to disappoint you. He has to. There’s no way he can accomplish all the things he’s said he’s going to do, and as I’ve learned from watching Obama, in many cases, he’s not even going to try. Personally, I think this will be an even bigger problem with Trump, since he has more than the usual politician’s gift for telling people what they want to hear.
If Trump wants to get anything done, he’s going to have to make some tradeoffs, and then his choices will reveal his true nature. His supporters will find out what his presidency is really all about. They’ll find out which of them he really loves, and which get left in the cold. My guess is that he only really loves himself, so he’s only going to help people who can help him.
As a libertarian, I have nothing to look forward to in a Trump administration. The most I can maybe hope for is that his drunkard’s walk through public policy will occasionally lead to some random idea I like. A few libertarians are encouraged by Betsy DeVos’s support for school choice, but she strikes me as the sort of person who just doesn’t like other people running the schools. I doubt she’d be so excited about alternative schooling if the public schools did things her way. I suppose a few of Trump’s economic team have vaguely pro-free-market leanings, but what good they might do is likely to be more than undone by Trump’s mercantilism and crony capitalism. And what good is a stable dollar when the President can jolt the markets with just a tweet?
Trump campaigned like an authoritarian, and I expect him to be one, which is going to make me miserable for the next four years. However, I don’t think most current Trump supporters are going to be feel much better about his presidency. The reality can never live up to the promise — especially with a guy who doesn’t see a need to keep promises — and starting today, the reality of the Trump presidency is unavoidable. Whatever it is, here it comes.