While I was watching the election results it came to me: Donald Trump is to the United States as Arnold Schwarzenegger was to California. Arnold became governor after the citizens of California voted to recall Gray Davis way back in 2003. This left a choice between Cruz Bustamante and Schwarzenegger. If you’re unfamiliar with Bustamante just imagine Hillary Clinton as a paunchy latino who was never a first lady but was the 45th Lieutenant Governor of California. Schwarzenegger had money and a dazzling level of name recognition. But, more than this, he had answers to everything wrong with California. He promised to, “pump up Sacramento.” He said that Gray Davis had terminated hope and that it was now time to terminate Gray Davis. The Governator won the election by 1.3 million votes.
Then reality crashed down on him.
Schwarzenegger had difficulty passing a budget which led to him likening California legislators to kindergarteners who needed a time out. His most memorable line was branding those same legislators as girlie men. A couple years later, after watching his popularity tumble further, he changed his tone. The very same unions Arnold had earlier dismissed so readily showed why they have been such longstanding houses of power in this state.
In the end, it turned out that Arnold’s fame and money didn’t mean he had the answers to everything that was wrong with California.
And now there’s Donald Trump…
He has money, but no one’s quite sure how much. He has experience in business, but he also had a $200,000,000 head start. And, like Arnold, Trump says he has the answers to everything that will help make our country great again. Yet, he never told the electorate when exactly the country was previously great and what had robbed its greatness.
Like Arnold, he’s adept at identifying enemies but not so quick to identify allies or to show an interest in building consensus. For that matter, he has done and said little to indicate that he thinks consensus is even something of value.
Say what you want about Schwarzenegger. He was born with nothing and built his fortune by capitalizing on his gifts. In the end, he learned some hard lessons in his time as governor. The longer he held office, the less bombastic he sounded.
We will have to wait to find out whether Donal Trump the president will be a different man than Trump the candidate. I suspect he won’t like the job. He won’t be able to free himself from the relentless schedule. There will be no reality TV shows, no openings of hotels and golf courses just the constant pull in all directions that have plagued every president since Washington.
Then, there’s his age. He’ll be the same age when he’s inaugurated as Reagan was when he took office. Trump displayed great energy throughout the campaign. But a campaign is, by its nature, founded on rhetoric. That’s Trump’s strength. Being president is a grind of details that is not something Trump would seem to enjoy, just as Reagan did not. I’m not even going to talk about the beating Trump’s golf handicap is bound to take.
Then there’s his money and his business. Even though the Trump family seemed blissfully unfamiliar with the concept of a blind trust during the campaign they will surely know all about them by the time Trump takes office. Trump’s term in office will mean he won’t be able to trade stocks or be anything like the head of his own empire that he’s been for decades.
Instead, Trump will be like Eisenhower, giving orders that no one follows.
I also think Trump will find that TV time is a lot more difficult to get when you’re president than when you’re running for president. This is man who needs attention like most men need oxygen. He’ll get plenty, but I’m quite sure it won’t be the kind he likes. His ideas, such as they are, will have to turn into actions at some point. And, when they do, they will be questioned by the press corp, the democrats, the people and inevitably by members of his own party.
Donald Trump doesn’t like being questioned but presidents are questioned endlessly.
I wish Trump luck in renegotiating trade deals, which may have been made without the interests of American workers’ jobs or wages taken into account. I wish him luck in dealing with our county’s immigration issues, but I know that his is the party of cheap labor and I know that minimal control of immigration helps to preserve low wages. I wish him luck dealing with foreign powers though I think he’ll soon learn that Vladimir Putin’s interests don’t align with Trump’s interests, or America’s interests, quite as often as he hopes they will. I wish him luck in lowering taxes but know that doing such constitutes a path this country has gone down before, and that it’s a path that led to massive debt and budget shortfalls. I wish him luck in battling our country’s foes. He has said he can defeat them all easily yet the forty-four presidents who came before him tried to do the same over the last two hundred and twenty seven years. Still, America has never seen a sunrise without a host of new enemies to replace our many vanquished foes.
Still, I don’t need to have faith in any one man to maintain my faith in our republic.
It will long endure beyond the time of Trump and me.