Do elected officials say one thing when they run for office and, once in office, do another? Although studies by political scientists consistently show that politicians generally attempt to implement the policies they campaign on, many cynics do not believe that is the case. I venture to say that most Trump supporters believe that “career politicians” say one thing to get elected and then do something else once in office.
Over the years the media has been more vigilant in attempting to document when politicians break their promises (although they have been less rigorous about highlighting when they keep them). How did Obama do? According to Politifact over his eight years in office Obama made 533 campaign promises. Of those, he kept 48.2% of them and “compromised” to get at least part of what he wanted on another 27.6%. On only 24.2% of the promises he made did he fail to keep them. Note that Politifact doesn’t explain exactly why the promises were not kept.
Politifact has already identified 102 campaign promises that Trump has made and they will be keeping a scorecard of how well he does. I would just like to highlight some of the more interesting ones and project how they will be fulfilled by our new president.
“Draining the Swamp.” This, of course, is a great line for campaign rallies as it conjures up images of a murky Washington D. C. environment filled with slimy snakes and gators feasting on the body politic. But, how will we know if and when the swamp has been drained? First of all, it has never been made entirely clear exactly who the predators in the swamp actually are. Are they career politicians? Lobbyists? Bureaucrats? Campaign donors? All of the above?
As best we can tell by looking at Trump’s actions so far apparently the predators in the swamp do not include campaign donors. His Education Department secretary- designate Betsy DeVos’ family donated over $200 million to Republicans over the years, his nominee to run the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon, donated $7.5 million to back his run, the Deputy Commerce Secretary designate Todd Ricketts had his family donate $1.3 million, Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder chipped in $320,000, and on and on. But maybe Trump really meant that the predators in the swamp were the career politicians and here he supports a constitutional amendment to place term limits on members of Congress. Of course, that proposal must actually go through Congress itself. It’s toast. Hey, but at least he can claim that he tried.
That leaves us with the easiest target, the bureaucrats. Expect some sort of nasty presidential order directed at those poor slobs, the most vulnerable swamp creatures. After it is signed expect Trump to declare that “the swamp has been drained” and we will never hear the phrase again.
“Defeat ISIS.” Trump either has a plan to defeat ISIS or he doesn’t have a plan. It’s not clear. One time he said he knew more than the generals and had a plan, but he also said that once elected he would tell the generals to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. Seems a little confusing.
The key to understanding ISIS is realizing that it is an amorphous amoebic-like organization that operates in strange ways and has much different goals than most organizations. Trying to defeat it is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time you smash it in one place it pops up in another. ISIS is not committed to taking any particular land, it merely need staging areas and access to the Internet.
Because so few people really understand much about this group and because it operates primarily in places most Americans have never heard of it lends itself to image manipulation. We should expect the Trump administration to deal with ISIS as a PR problem. They can defeat ISIS by coming up with “alternative facts” to demonstrate that Trump has actually defeated the terrorist organization. Sure there will be terrorist attacks in Europe and maybe even in the US, but these can be attributed to fake terrorist groups which mimic ISIS whose creation can eventually be blamed on Obama.
“Oreos.” A lot of people may have missed Trump’s promise about Oreos as it was not widely reported by the liberal media. In August of 2015 someone told Trump that Nabisco was shutting down its plant in Chicago and moving it to Mexico. In response he said he would not eat another Oreo until it moved its Oreo production back to the US.
Now obviously this would be a difficult promise to hold Trump to as, in the middle of the night, he could sneak down into the White House kitchen and surreptitiously munch on a few of those delicious cookies. Who would know? But, as luck has it, Trump won’t have to go those lengths to eat an Oreo. In fact, although some jobs at the Nabisco plant will be lost they are not being lost to transfer them to Mexico; Nabisco is merely re-organizing their production lines. Better yet for Trump, Oreos are, and will continue to be made in the good old U. S. A. Expect an East Room spectacle with Trump in front of a heaping tray of Oreos declaring victory and passing them out to reporters as a peace offering. Great photo op.
“Make America Great Again.” This, of course, was Trump’s signature campaign theme and while some cynics criticized it because they thought America was already great, it struck a cord with a lot of rust-belt voters. Still, it’s one of those phrases that is difficult to pinpoint about what exactly it means. How will we know when Trump has made America great again?
Fortunately Trump has already provided us with the answer about when we will know when American is great again—he will tell us!
In his first week in office Trump, through his spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, seemed to indicate that they were perfectly within their rights to challenge the media with what she called “alternative facts.” In other words, the Trump administration feels free to create its own reality, divorced from, of course, reality. So, regardless of what actually happens during the Trump term expect President Trump to fulfill this promise and, at some point during his term in office, declare that America is great again!
Expect a new kind of presidency—one which will be able to easily fulfill all Trump’s campaign promises because it will create its own reality. In Trump’s words we will get really, really tired of winning so much.
Or, perhaps Chico Marx’s words are more prescient:
“Who are you going to believe—me or your own eyes?”