After much speculation, the world knows for certain what it knew only as shadow of an oncoming terror: Trump is a puppet for nationalist populists. I have talked before how we need to resist nationalism, both as Americans and as human beings. I will reiterate the problem in terms that our fellows on the right can understand: nationalism deifies the state in much the same manner as socialism. Some may disagree with this assessment but after all the rhetoric during the campaign and after, you would think that our country was about to collapse and Trump was the only one to save it. That is nationalism; it has ascribed superhuman powers to a man who is, by the nature of his office, rather powerless. Yet he has proposals for his first 100 days that would change our country in more ways than Clinton ever could with a yes-man Congress and a rubber stamp SCOTUS. It is like Napoleon’s 100 Days if the Seventh Coalition were all on his side.
His first proposal is perhaps one of the most outlandish. “FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress…” Congress is the direct voice of the people in government. It is where laws are truly made and our founders believed that the people should have a say in the laws that they would be subject to. Yet, this proposal makes the assumption that this is not happening, that somehow congressional leaders are not listening to their constituents.
This is an important piece of the not-as-liberal — commonly called “conservative” — folklore. In reality, this election in particular should prove this to be fantasy. The NALs –the not-as-liberals — will say that congressional leaders are not listening to them and as an example, they will point to Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell. But unless you live in their respective districts, you don’t really have an argument. Paul Ryan won the GOP primary in his district by large margins despite the supposed dissatisfaction with his job. The numbers would indicate that Ryan’s most ardent critics are people who can’t even vote for him. The same is true for McConnell. What the NALs forget is that a) this is a big country and b) there are other types of Republicans. Second, normally the NALs argue that they are not represented because a specific policy was not followed dogmatically. In other words, compromise is out of the question.
But I digress. Such a proposal to place term limits on members of Congress would actually hurt our democracy and the vision of the founders. Anyone can see that the terms for president were not added until FDR’s presidency and that was only because he was elected president for an unprecedented four terms. (Only his cousin, TR, ever even ran for a third.) In Congress, there is limited time to do anything of note. NAFTA, the massive trade deal that Trump despises but actually benefits Americans in the long run, took two presidents and multiple changes in congressional leadership to actually get passed. To have a revolving door like this makes coming to these compromises and getting things done extremely difficult. Much of legislating involves getting people to vote a certain way by promising to vote a certain way on other things; for this to work, there need to be relationships and those are only built over time and with hard work. With so many people coming in and out, you run the risk of damaging those relationships. You also run the risk of having a more moderate opponent who was willing to vote for your legislation be replaced with a radical.
In the end, this proposal would only help the radicals get elected and would bog down crucial legislation through increased partisan infighting and further unwillingness to compromise.
This next one is a doozy. “SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition…” This is why a businessman is not always the best solution to government. Maryland has had some success in that area, but if this is Trump’s solution, then he is going to have a hard time getting what he wants.
Everyone knows that the federal workforce is made up of slackers, toadies, and hard workers. Trump assumes that the slackers and toadies will leave and the hard workers will stay. On the contrary, the slackers and toadies are the ones who are where they are because they have learned to work the system; they’ll find a way to stay, while outgoing hard workers will not be replaced. Getting rid of people in general will not make the federal workforce efficient. Instead, the key is getting rid of the right people and then changing the culture. Do that and you will have a better functioning bureaucracy.
“THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.” On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. But it seems that Trump, along with most other Americans, doesn’t know how federal regulations are made or what they consist of.
Every time a new law or executive order or court decision that affects an agency is passed, issued, or decided, that agency then needs to write a regulation to be compliant with the law. Thus, approximately 200 pages on the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) deal with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy for every federal agency because FOIA requires them to have it.
Moreover, when Congress creates an agency, it does not detail how the agency is going to function, what offices will be included in the agency, how they will handle office standards and so on. Regulations are created to define that. These aren’t the bugbear regulations that micromanage your life; they’re simply standard operating procedures for federal offices.
It is true that federal regulations have hurt American business, especially small businesses. Trump’s rule, however, would not fix the problem. Instead, one could simply play a numbers game by combining regulations or adding to them, instead of creating new ones. (Indeed, it is a much easier process to change a regulation than it is to create an entirely new one.) Furthermore, since Trump himself wants to pass new laws and direct agencies to do things and so on, there will need to be new regulations to do it. Agencies, filled with slackers and toadies, are just going to slap new regulations into old ones and move on.
The rest of his proposals– 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service; a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government; and a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections–are not bad and actually quite laudable. But again, these seem to be more regulations. In fact, most of the regulations we have regulate the government. These proposals create more questions than answers and likely only serve to mollify the alt-right nationalists who see government as some beast that needs to be tamed and then unleashed on their enemies.
The first six proposals Trump has given are nothing more than pandering to the nationalists that put their faith in him. These promises only really help those people in the end, giving them more power and influence in a republic that they seek to destroy like their cousins on the left. There are solutions to these problems. They require a renewed commitment to public service through a change in culture towards Solidarity between elected officials and the people; a reformation of the federal service with targeted culling of the herd so that the culture of agencies can be changed and they can be made more open to civic minded recruits; and legislation that divests the federal regulatory bodies of powers that would more properly be exercised by state and local governments. The broad, sweeping proposals put forth by Trump aren’t going to bring Americans together and unite us under one banner. Instead, it will satisfy one of the more dangerous political movements and embolden it to threaten our republic further. We need to tell President-Elect Trump that Solidarity, Subsidiarity, and a return to civic virtues are what we need, not more nationalism and more populism; we had eight years of that and we are tired of it.