The prospect of Donald Trump winning the White House terrifies enough people for the right reasons.
Some of his policies are terrible. My personal worst is Trump’s policy towards Russia, which pretends to be different than Barack Obama’s but is exactly the same, with swagger.
But there are also people who oppose Trump for the wrong reasons. Chief among these is the claim that Trump is a Hitler-in-waiting, using nationalism and bigotry to whip the gullible masses into a frenzy that allows him to seize power.
These objections are especially difficult to take seriously when they come from Obama supporters, who seemed unperturbed by the creation of a personality cult around our current president, and have no complaints about the fact that he has spent the last several years amassing unprecedented executive powers and trampling the Constitution.
Indeed, many are disappointed Obama did not go further. His would-be successor, Hillary Clinton, is running explicitly on a pledge to do even more constitutional damage.
But I share the concerns of conservatives who worry that a President Trump would show the same disregard for constitutional constraints that Obama has shown.
Do we really want another president who picks fights with the media, suggesting a dangerous disregard for the First Amendment? Do we really want another president who deliberately makes “enemies”–Obama’s word–out of entire sections of the population? Do we really want another narcissist in the White House who puts his logo on everything?
The answer is no. Donald Trump would crash the presidency. But you know what? That’s a good thing. Here’s why.
Over the past several decades, the federal government has continued to grow–in size, cost, and power–despite repeated promises, on both sides of the aisle, to shrink it. And with the growth of government has come the growth of the presidency–especially under the last two incumbents. The war on terror was George W. Bush’s excuse; the financial collapse was the crisis Obama could not let go to waste.
Now, consider the past two midterm elections.
In 2010, conservatives showed up in droves to throw out the Congress that passed the near-trillion-dollar stimulus and Obamacare. Republicans swept the House, but fell short in the Senate. In crisis after crisis, the GOP lacked the legislative leverage to push back against Obama’s demands. Republican leaders wrung their hands, but promised conservative voters that if only they had control of the Senate, they could roll back Obama’s agenda–defunding it if necessary.
In 2014, conservatives marched to the polls once again, defying the pundits and giving Republicans the mandate they said they needed. Yet the GOP is still unable, or unwilling, to oppose Obama’s agenda. On the Iran deal, the Republicans held maximum leverage, since Obama would have needed a two-thirds vote in the Senate to ratify the agreement. When Obama cast the deal as an “executive agreement,” instead of resisting him, Congress passed a compromise that made it even easier for Obama to prevail.
It may take a President Donald Trump for Beltway Republicans to wake up and roll back the powers of the presidency–powers the Framers of the Constitution never imagined.
Picture, if you will, Donald Trump trying to repeat Obama’s defiance of the War Powers Resolution, and launching air strikes against, say, Saudi Arabia without sending Congress so much as a Post-it note to let it know. How quickly do you think Republicans would join Democrats in amending that oft-abused, long-outdated, blank check?
The congressional pushback against a President Trump might finally restore the constitutional balance our Framers intended. That is true whether the present Republican leadership (which detests Trump) stays in power, or whether Trump is such a drag on other Republicans that Nancy Pelosi takes back the Speaker’s gavel. (Unlikely, given how Trump helped Matt Bevin in Kentucky.)
If you can’t stand the thought of President Trump, rest assured: The Donald may be just bad enough to Make America Great Again.