Monday, January 2, 2017

Might Trump Resign?

I might rightly be accused of wishful thinking, but I’m not the only American to speculate that Trump could resign during his first year in office. Make no mistake, he’s going to be sworn in on January 20th, something the Republican party will insist upon, if only to make any subsequent transitions of power manageably predictable. I imagine he’ll stick around as long as he thinks he’s getting something out of the deal, however it is that he’ll be measuring that.

Why might Trump resign? There’s actually a long list of reasons, beginning with the likelihood that even a year ago he didn’t really think he’d win. Nobody can read Trump’s mind, but he never seemed to have a serious agenda for governance, nor a clear understanding of what the job of the President is or what he’d do with it. Looking at that, many of us can’t help but speculate that his original aim was either to build some position of influence over government as an outside commentator, or merely to create a new kind of TV show. It certainly looked to me that he was as surprised as I was to realize he might actually win the presidency, and he has been scrambling ever since.

Trump is going to get very frustrated with the limitations on the office of the presidency. He seems to be having a tough time coming to terms with the fact that he can’t rule by fiat and that negotiations both domestic and international can require patience and finesses, two things he manifestly lacks. He’s likely to chafe badly at the glacial pace of government affairs and at the need to work cooperatively with others.

Trump has already demonstrated that he has an extraordinarily thin skin, something few politicians can afford. His tendency for divisive rhetoric already has and will continue to provoke harsh criticism, even derision from opponents both here in the U.S. and abroad. As a candidate he was free to deal with that however he wished, but as president he’s going to have to be more restrained, and that’s going to be very difficult for him. Every president in my lifetime has had to be able to ignore intense ridicule at times, but there’s good reason to doubt that Trump can learn to do that.

Of course, his large and complex business dealings will present an ongoing problem. The simple fact is that he stands to earn more income from sources other than his presidential paycheck. He’s going to make a show of distancing himself from his business interests, but it’s difficult to imagine him not intervening if circumstances get difficult. The result is that at least at times he’s going to have two very demanding jobs that are going to interfere with each other. If he’s really forced by circumstances to choose between them, I think he’ll follow the bigger pile of money.

A lot depends, one might guess, on how long and to what degree Trump and the Republican party can work together. As a Republican president with a Republican majority in the House and Senate, Trump could have a level of power few presidents have experienced. But that power is based in cooperation, in the ability of Congress and the White House to work together. Republicans were reticent about Trump precisely because he’s a loose cannon, an unknown quantity, a Republican whose ideological alignment has never been put to the test. If Trump and his supposed party start short-circuiting each other’s agendas, Trump will experience a level of frustration few presidents have ever known.

Of course, none of this is conclusive. Trump could decide he’s in this for the long term. Maybe people like me are simply incapable of visualizing four years of President Trump.

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