‘The Emperor has no clothes’: President Trump is a return to Reagan-era politics and public policy
The election of New York City businessman and reality television personality Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States last week has sent shock waves crashing through the American body politic, as well as globally in the governments of both U.S. allies and opponents.
While pundits, political experts, commentators and lay persons assess and discuss the implications of Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, many communities within American society – including women, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and LGBTQ people – are in deep grief and despair. These often-minority communities share a state of fear brought about by Trump’s own words in speeches and social media posts during the course of his campaign that appeared to paint targets on them. In fact, his election has seen massive protests in numerous cities across the United States.
There are very concrete concerns that the incoming Trump Administration will declare war on these communities, principally by undoing the last eight years of work by the outgoing Obama administration as telegraphed in statements made by campaign officials and even the President-elect himself.
But one factor needs to be stated clearly given this current atmosphere regarding the President-elect: “The Emperor has no clothes.” Following this line of thought, one may reasonably draw the conclusion that there are direct parallels to the election and later the administration of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.
Perhaps the main difference between the two men is the fact that while Reagan had served as Governor of California, and had a basic understanding of the machinations of government and its functions as an institution, Trump on the other hand has virtually no experience in governmental affairs or operations. Both men however share the singularly unique trait of detached engagement, preferring to “staff it out,” letting key issues be decided by their underlings and signing off on work product that they have oft times have not been active participants in. During campaigning, they both laid out a broad agenda, heavy on rhetoric, but with little real substance in terms of the direct actions they would take instead leaving those to others – read: staffers & appointees.
As to almost highlight Trump and his team’s ignorance of governmental operations, The Wall Street Journal noted in a piece Monday that President Barack Obama indicated he will most likely spend more time with the President-elect than has been previously the norm, owing to the latter’s lack of knowledge as to the reality of presidential duties.
“During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting,” the WSJ reported. ”Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.”
“After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.”
The Reagan White House chiefly operated on the principal of delegated or designated authority with minimal presidential influence, interference, or direction, primarily filtered through his two Chiefs of Staff, Jim Baker who was succeeded by Donald Regan. Analysis of the Reagan presidency by political experts and historians over the past 28 years reveals that the Reagan Inner Circle, comprised of close aides, staffers, and what has been termed by historians, his “Kitchen Cabinet,” in many instances were instrumental in establishing the parameters for public policy that President Reagan himself simply signed off on. This was particularly true of domestic policies.
Now, thirty-six years later, Trump has already placed himself in a nearly identical “Reaganesque” scenario, surrounding himself with longtime Republican operatives and Washington insiders – contrary to his oft repeated campaign promises to “Drain the Swamp” of corrupt Washington lobbyist malaise and special interest influences, as his campaign transitions into an incoming presidential administration. Comparatively, as was the case with Reagan before him, Trump initially appears to be more of a figurehead chief executive as opposed to hands on and fully engaged president.
For the critical White House position of Chief of Staff, Trump has selected long time consummate Washington insider, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. This selection of Priebus, recommended by GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, is seen as widely acceptable to large segments of the Republican Party and its base. Priebus will act as the primary conduit between the White House and the Republican-led Congress, as well as the liaison between Trump and his presidential Cabinet and the independent Federal Agency heads.
While Trump’s selection of Priebus seems to telegraph a certain acceptance of Washington conventions, his next decision, naming Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, as “chief strategist and senior counselor” to the president, has set off alarms in both the liberal and some of the moderate conservative camps. Bannon’s new position not only makes him one of Trump’s closest advisers with unfettered access to the Oval Office, but indeed one may argue makes him one of the most powerful people in America.
In a statement released Monday by his office, Oregon Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley took serious exception regarding Steve Bannon serving in the Trump White House:
“There should be no sugarcoating the truth here: Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government. Bannon has boasted that he made Breitbart News ‘the platform for the alt-right,’ which is the politically correct term for the resurrection of white nationalism.
“Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News created news sections such as ‘Black Crime’ and compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. Under his leadership, Breitbart News ran this headline following the massacre of nine church-goers at an African American church in Charleston: ‘Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.’ He called conservative commentator Bill Kristol a ‘renegade Jew.’ Steve Bannon bears substantial responsibility for the open and disgusting acts of hatred that are sweeping across our nation.
“After running a campaign built on inciting divisions and hate, Donald Trump has claimed he wants to unite America. Yet he has done nothing meaningful to stop the wave of hate crimes and hate speech he has unleashed, and now has brought that strategy right into the Oval Office.
“Donald Trump needs to forcefully denounce the hateful actions and efforts to intimidate people that some of his supporters are undertaking and rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon.”
Judd Legum, the Editor-In-Chief of ThinkProgress, the online publication of Washington D.C. based progressive policy think-tank Center for American Progress, noted that Breitbart “regularly traffics in racially charged accusations about President Obama, provocative comparisons between abortion providers and Holocaust killers, and contempt for feminism.”
More damning was an observation from former Breitbart Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro, who described Bannon as “a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies.”
Jody May-Chang, a progressive journalist and LGBTQI equality rights activist based in Idaho called out the President-elect’s choice, saying:
“’Alt-Right’ is a Politically Correct term they call themselves who are also known for being what we all call White Supremacists, Nazi’s and the Ku Kluz Klan! The people who voted for Trump say they were rejecting political correctness. Well then we should too, in this case particularly.”
Yet the most powerful Republican in the capital, House Speaker Ryan said Sunday evening he had “no concerns” about Bannon taking a prominent role in the White House.
Trump has already angered social conservatives, Christian family groups, and LGBTQI equality rights opponents and also, according to one source inside his transition team, members of his inner circle with his statement Sunday night given to CBS News’ “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl on the subject of same-sex marriage. The President-elect told her regarding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, “it’s the law of the land.”
“It’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law,” he said. “It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done … these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And – I think – I’m – I’m fine with that.”
As the protests continue and minority groups debate the full impact of a Trump presidency that includes a divisive figure like Bannon, for the LGBTQI community, the incoming administration could mean rolling back all of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, which gave measures of protection for the transgender community, required health care providers and hospitals to allow unfettered access to partners and spouses in same-sex relationships, and gave spouses of LGBTQI U.S. military personnel equal treatment with the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.
Also possibly targeted would be the Veteran’s Administration policies in regards to same-sex married couples. Even recent actions by the U.S. Defense Department, in regard to allowing transgender personnel to serve, could come under intense scrutiny and siege.
Major advances for the LGBTQI community would take congressional action to undo and most experts agree are highly unlikely- although not outside the realm of the possibility of the anti-LGBTQI groups attempting to push the incoming Congress into taking action. The Vice-President-elect, former Indiana Republican Governor Michael Pence, is an outspoken opponent of LGBTQI rights and is seen by some progressive leaders to be the person most likely in the new administration to lead a campaign to undo eight years of progress made by the Obama Administration in support of the LGBTQI community.
One LGBTQI rights activist noted” “If there is any one person who poses the biggest threat to our way of life it is Mike Pence, who wants to erode the separation between church and state, tell women what to do with their bodies, use electroshock on teens to rid them of their gayness, and discourage the use of condoms.”
The other Trump appointment that has riled up LGBTQI people and their allies was the Presidential Transition-Team appointment of former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, currently a visiting Fellow at the Washington D.C. based anti-LGBTQI rights group, Family Research Center. That group has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active hate group for its blatant disregard for the truth about the LGBTQI community and its penchant for spreading misinformation about LGBTQI persons.
Blackwell, who was appointed Chief Domestic Policy adviser to Trump, said in a 2006 interview with the Columbus Dispatch;
“I think homosexuality is a lifestyle, it’s a choice, and that lifestyle can be changed. The reality is, again … that I think we make choices all the time. And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one’s genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think that they can be changed? Yes.”
Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell took an Act of Congress, and a reinstatement would require passage of a new law, which almost certainly would be challenged by the LGBTQI community and its allies, but, even the Pentagon itself, thus there is small probability of the anti-LGBTQI forces, including the incoming Vice-President. However, actions taken by Defence Secretary Ash Carter this past June to allow transgender service in the U.S. Military most likely would be reversed.
The next “safe” advancement for the LGBTQI community was the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Act, passed by Congressional action and signed into law by President Obama. There is little probability that the forces arrayed against the LGBTQI community would attempt repeal, given that the law also covers other minorities.
That said, however, Trump has publicly indicated he would sign the so-called First Amendment Defence Act (FADA), a measure that effectively would allow legalised discrimination against the LGBTQI community based on religious beliefs. As Governor of Indiana, Pence backed and signed a similar measure and had the backing of virtually every anti-LGBTQI group.
The third issue that has raised the most concern undoubtedly is the ruling in June of 2015 that granted same-sex couples the right to be married. Trump’s statements Sunday have now raised some questions in Washington’s conservative circles as to whether or not he’d support all out efforts to overturn the High Court decision. Legal observers however have pointed out that there are significant obstacles for the right to nullify that ruling.
Backers of a Constitutional Amendment readily agree that it would take years and there is not an iron clad certainty that the necessary 2/3 majority of States to ratify such an amendment would be a reality. The second path, bringing forward another case would be faced with several obstacles, commencing with the current court. Should Trump appoint a social conservative in the same vein as Justice Scalia, it merely would regain the make-up and balance of the SCOTUS as it was at the time of the ruling.
Then too, as current Justices Ginsburg, 83, and Breyer, 79, may leave office and President Trump is able to shift the balance on the court to the right, there are still the logistics of a case making its way up through the lower federal courts. Legal observers say that besides also taking years, given the exhaustive back and forth, the lower courts could likely dismiss challenges, preventing another review by the High Court.
In short, Obergefell could be overturned, but not immediately.
Other communities are facing adverse actions such as the President-elect’s public statements that he will seek to enforce the mass deportation or incarceration of what he has labeled criminal illegal (undocumented) aliens. House Speaker Ryan was quick to point out that the United States government is not prepared to create a massive federal force to sustain Trump’s deportation agenda although experts are now questioning by which means Trump actually hopes to achieve that goal. On the subject of his campaign promise to build a wall? He now acknowledges that any wall would likely comprise large segments of fencing.
Overall the focus now by politicos and the media is on his ability to form and run a government, which given his inexperience is looking as though he, like Reagan, it will be relying on staff and his appointees who will really run the show. Therein lies the greatest challenge.
Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
At the intersection of politics, religion, law, social justice, and civil rights, The New Civil Rights Movement is a broadly cited media organization delivering news and opinion dedicated to the wide interests of the progressive and LGBT communities.
“I am most concerned with the fate of the Affordable Care Act. I depend on my health insurance for medications I take every day,”January 19, 2017
- LGBTQ Legal group fears the worst from Trump’s AG nominee, January 9, 2017
- Storm clouds gathering around Trump, December 14, 2016
- Trump’s executive order promise leaves out LGBTQ protections, November 22, 2016
- Prev Charlottesville teen charged with forcible sodomy against another male
- Next RTP’s ‘Scrooge in Rouge’ offers a twist on a Christmas classic, with some drag
- Back to top
- National LGBTQ campaign group backs transgender candidate in race agianst author of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban
- Diversity Richmond addresses Chesterfield Police community meeting
- Plunge into the depths of high school female relationships in TheatreLAB’s production of ‘Dry Land’
- Brian Burns returns with new book detailing RVA’s history of income inequality, homosexuality and Maymont owner’s use of convict labor
- Proud lesbian, cult survivor and nurse – Chelsea Savage looks to capture Virginia House seat