Donald Trump’s situation reminds me of the proverbial dog chasing cars. What do you do with it once you catch it?
There is a world of difference between campaigning to be president, and being president. Imagine the learning curve for someone who has no experience at all in government. And there’s a world of difference between making a promise and being able to deliver on it.
Some of his conservative backers are already upset that President-elect Trump is already backing off some hardline immigration promises made by that other guy, Candidate Trump.
In his very first post-election interview, Trump admitted that the “no amnesty” round up of millions upon millions of undocumented immigrants really isn’t likely. Instead he says he will just focus on rounding up criminal immigrants - which, supposedly, ICE and Homeland Security have already been doing for years.
The “big beautiful wall” he pledged over and over again and said he will force Mexico to pay for has already devolved to bits of fencing in some border areas. The U.S. has already spent $7 billion on fences, without much effect. It would take an estimated $20 billion more to span the full border.
Eating a few of one’s words in politics isn’t surprising or unusual. Nobody takes campaign promises literally in this country any more. David Copperfield couldn’t work the kind of magic these people feed us. They say anything it takes to get elected. You know it’s not going to happen, at least not fully or so simply, and I imagine the candidates mostly know it too, even as they are saying it.
Once a candidate wins, a reality check sets in on the three-pronged system of checks and balances and the rest of the politcal machinery that dictates that you don’t get to act on your every whim in a vacuum. (Not to mention the discovery of potential price tags for the grand things that seemed so easy to promise in six months before.) It isn’t always a bad thing to re-evaluate, as with Trump immigration policy. With good counsel, cooler heads and realism may prevail.
Time will tell how the next president will do on his promises. But time has already told on his predecessor, Barack Obama.
When candidate Obama campaigned in Storm Lake twice before winning his first election, I made a list of everything he promised during those two visits.
We expected a lot. Obama was so very earnest, and confident, then. And, he’s tried to deliver, even to the point of defying a gridlocked Congress. The man deserves an A for effort, if not for impact.
Has he solved middle east conflict? Made measurable progress on climate change? Fixed immigration and naturalization policy? Stopped discrimination against people of color and gays? Better funded our schools, or Social Security? Reversed our sputtering economy? Fed the hungry? Dealt with big oil? Made health care affordable? Granted, he didn’t start any of these problems, but still, the answer is, not so much.
We all knew, really, that war and poverty and sickness and environmental crisis were not created overnight, and would not be close to solved in four years or eight, no matter how much faith we put in any one politician. His legacy will be baby steps in the right direction on such issues.
I still have that promises list here somewhere… aha - got it!
These are not things Obama said he would like to do, or hoped to do. These are the flat-out, cross-my-heart-and-hope to die, scouts’ honor promises to Storm Lake crowds when he first ran for the office. Here they are:
* He promised to give every family of a student $4,000 in tax credits to help pay for college education. As a parent of college bound teenagers with a cupboard full of Hamburger Helper, you’re damn right my ears perked up.
* He promised to turn undocumented immigrants into literate citizens, and to punish those industries that hire illegals. (Did his homework on Storm Lake.)
* He promised to control big livestock confinements stinking up the place and killing family farms.
* He promised to pay teachers more, and bring the emphasis on art and music back into schools. (Area districts with falling enrollment are cutting teachers to balance budgets as we speak).
* He promised to institute annual minimum wage cost of living increases for workers. (Minimum wage was increased in three-steps in a 2007 bill, it was stuck for 10 years before and nine since - changing only a total of $2.10 in 19 years.)
* Promised health insurance for all Americans within his first term, or a savings of $2,500 to all those who are already insured. He gave it a shot.
* Promised that American cars would average 40 miles per gallon, which he said would offset all the oil imported from the Persian Gulf. It’s about 25.
I’ll leave it up to you to judge how he’s done.
Campaign issues are slippery beasts, and a certain amount of unfulfilled promises if not outright lies are considered par for the course these days, it seems.
I would not want to be Trump. Like Obama, he set himself a big, bold plate, not all of it for the good, not all of it even remotely possible.
His followers fully expect something different than the rest of the pols deliver. Call it authenticity. With a GOP Congress, he will have no one to blame if it fails.
With great power, the axiom says, comes great responsibility. Let’s hope President Trump is less rash than Celebrity Trump and Candidate Trump as he sets his priorities in office.
And about those promises. As my grandmother used to say, I hope his eyes aren’t bigger than his stomach.