It is now four weeks since the election and while it is certainly a bitter pill to swallow, short of a miracle, Trump will be sworn in on January 20th. Usually there is a pause between the election and inauguration. While with any newly elected president there has always been a transition process with appropriate announcements of appointments and nominations made, as with the primaries and the election, this is no ordinary transition process. This president-elect is moving out of the traditional in both behavior and word. He works with great commitment to keep the spotlight on himself by creating a dramatic spectacle of the appointment process. He ignores offers of consultation from the State Department and proceeds with phone conversations with foreign leaders devoid of the background or knowledge regarding our relations with that country or its’ leader. He continues to tweet with reckless abandon, ignoring the fact that as the president-elect all of his words matter. He ignores the lines that must separate his business from his presidency and proceeds with conversations that at best will raise questions of conflict of interest. He scheduled a number of “thankyou” rallies to renew his opportunity for blustery extreme rhetoric. Finally, he has continued to refer to and treat the press with disdain raising concerns about his willingness to allow members of the press the freedom to do their job during his presidency. In short, the Trump we see today is really no different from the Trump of the campaign.
This behavior has left many of us anxious about what a Trump presidency will look like. While we try to anticipate what that reality will be, based on his appointments, statements and behavior, there appears to be much confusion and contradiction. The daily drama surrounding his selection of a candidate for the position of Secretary of State is a perfect example. Not only have there been clear indications of infighting within the transition staff, but the apparent candidates are miles apart in ideology, temperament and experience. Usually this selection provides a clear indication of the direction a president is planning to go regarding his foreign policy. But in this case between his contradictory statements and the broad spectrum of his candidates, we really don’t know. While during his campaign he vowed to “drain the swamp” referring to Washington D.C., his nominations thus far will do quite the contrary. So far he has primarily surrounded himself with wealthy white men and generals. There are a couple of women thrown in, but it is clear that his primary leadership will be white, wealthy and male. The swamp is hardly even having its water changed.
What is most concerning is what his nominations, appointments and behavior say about the future. The Sessions nomination is particularly troubling. His attitudes and record regarding civil rights , voting rights, marriage equality and abortion present a clear and present danger to us all. Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare takes on new urgency given his nomination of Tom Price to Health and Human Services. His appointments to Commerce and Treasury should raise red flags regarding regulation. His National Security pick should provide us with grave questions regarding our role in the world and our alliances. Finally the appointment of Bannon provides obvious concerns.
Usually it is sound advice to recommend that we all watch what is done and not what is said. However, in this case it is advisable to watch both. So far, we have no reason to believe that he will not follow through on every brash and extreme statement he made during the campaign. His nominations and appointments as well as his behavior and his words give us no reason to think otherwise. As we sit here in limbo somewhere between anxiety and anticipation, we can’t allow ourselves to believe anything about him is normal or ok. Donald Trump is a dangerous narcissist with authoritarian leanings. Don’t for a moment forget that the unthinkable and unimaginable can happen here.