Reading about the various names being “floated” for the Trump Cabinet is a nightmare come to life. Whether any or all of these names turn out to be actually nominated is not the point—the point is that we should have no illusions about what is coming our way.
Newt Gingrich for Secretary of State? Rudi Giuliani for Attorney General? Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior? Ben Carson for Secretary of Education? Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who has destroyed the economy of Kansas, as Secretary of Agriculture? These outlandish and bizarre possibilities are almost unbelievable—just like the reality that the head of Trump’s Transition Team is Chris Christie, who has even more legal trouble right now than Trump does (Bridgegate versus Trump University—a contest for who faces the most legal jeopardy at the moment). And now, wait for it, Jaime Dimon of JP Morgan for Treasury: he’s not a clown, just a reminder that the Trump administration will be relentlessly for the super-rich and the bankers, laying waste to the protections of Dodd-Frank and financial regulation. Here comes the new financial depression, brought to you by the same folks who brought the Great Recession!
Too much of the mainstream media and mainstream political discussion right now has a giant hidden assumption, one that should be exposed as demonstrably false. This assumption is that the course, at least of the beginning, of the Trump administration will follow at least some traditional paths, and be governed by traditional concerns.
Trump doesn’t really care about U.S. prestige in the world, about other world leaders being able to count on his word. Even for neo-liberal imperialist activists of the recent past who were imperious toward moral arguments, these were not dismissible considerations. Even as they sought ways to extend and project U.S. military power in unilateral ways, they very much wanted to maintain U.S. power in NATO, to build new alliances around the Pacific. They were nasty (primarily) men, but they were not totally unhinged. But when we try to measure Trump and his circle by even those debased standards, we start from that false assumption again, that Trump will be concerned about traditional ways of extending U.S. power and influence.
Similarly, even one of the worst of Reagan’s cabinet, James Watt as Secretary of the Interior, who cared not a bit about the environment, still felt himself somewhat restrained by normal political concerns. But the purpose of many if not all of Trump’s nominees and appointments will be to blow up the departments they will be charged with leading. Even such traditional bastions of corporate obeisance like the Commerce Department will have leadership whose job it will be to destroy even regulations to make it fair for all major sectors of the corporate world, in favor of Trump’s friends, allies, and fellow scam artists.
We need to learn to parse Trump’s words that are just for public consumption (“I’ll make America Great Again!”) and those that represent his actual plans (“I’ll reverse all of Obama’s Executive Orders on Day One!”).
The list of those being considered for Cabinet positions tells us important things about the Trump administration and how it plans to move: quickly, decisively, and in ways unrestricted by the norms of the past. And it plans to populate itself with right-wing ideologues who reject reality, such as the man being contemplated for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a climate-change denier and opponent of any and all environmental regulations.
We cannot expect sensible actions from rabid right-wingers imbued with arrogance and a spirit of bullying, determined to quickly and fundamentally transform virtually every aspect of government.
No doubt many of their actions will be challenged in court. There may even be some judges, even ones appointed by Republicans, who will strike down such actions. But as Trump has already shown, he is ready to bring extra-judicial pressure on anyone who resists his approach—he made that clear by his condemnation of a judge in his own fraud case who is of Mexican descent, Trump plans to brush aside all opposition.
We can not only expect Republican overreach, they are actively and publicly planning overreach, daring anyone to oppose them.
And all that is just on the internal government side. Trump’s election is already resulting in an increase of hate crimes of all kinds—we need to expect more of the same.
We must reject calls for compromise with Trump, calls for a “honeymoon” period, calls for “giving him time to lead.” He has already told us in many ways what to expect.