Current polls suggest President Trump is the underdog in the 2020 election, but it is only May. A lot can, and will, happen between now and when America heads to the ballot box (or, more likely, mailbox) to vote.
This column speculates on what a second Trump term might look like. One reader of my companion piece speculating on what a Biden presidency might look bottom lined the subject by saying, “more of the same.” This commenter likes Trump’s consistency, his candor, and his willingness to take an eye for an eye. Charitably put, interesting.
Here, diplomatically stated, is what I expect should President Trump defy odds (again) and get reelected:
The President will remain poll and media driven. No President has ever monitored his public image and standing in the polls as closely as has Trump. Nothing will change here. Even though a re-elected Trump will be a lame-duck, he will remain combative with the media and Democrats.
Frequent personnel changes will continue. Expect more fresh faces in the cabinet and on the White House staff. The quality of these appointees will be commensurate with those of the first term. One exception to the “fresh” part will be the return of Mike Flynn. Could he succeed Pompeo at State? Or maybe become Secretary of Defense?
The President will continue his position on climate change and the usefulness of science as a guide to policy making. Trump will cite any short-term improvements in climate resulting from the shut-down/slow-down of the economy as evidence that climate change is a hoax. He also will continue to second-guess scientists on the coronavirus and anything else where their recommendations may run counter to his “gut” instincts.
Trump will continue to focus on the stock market as a barometer of economic recovery. Hoping for a speedy economic recovery is not a bad thing, but the stock market is not the best metric. The President often equates the strength of the economy with the market. If he continues this, needed interventions to reduce unemployment and meet the urgent needs of families impacted by the economic crisis may not happen.
Trump will continue his “America First” foreign policy. The role America played in the world since 1945 will continue to “evolve” as the U.S. goes it alone on key issues. Expect China, Germany, Russia, and others to fill this void. Some see this as a good thing, but does this increased isolationism increase the chances for armed conflicts—conflicts where America may find itself without allies?
Attorney General Barr will keep his job, and Trump will continue to pursue interpretations of the Constitution that are “novel.” In July 2019, in comments focusing on the Mueller probe, Trump commented, “I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.” This perspective, frightening to some of us, was supported in Barr’s infamous memo of June 2018. Barr wrote, “Constitutionally, it is wrong to conceive of the President as simply the highest officer within the Executive branch hierarchy. He alone is the Executive branch. As such he is the sole repository of all Executive powers conferred by the Constitution.” If you were Trump, would you replace Barr?
Trump’s partisanship, and his willingness to dis members of his own party when they disagree with him, will continue. Should the Democrats win the Senate and retain the House, the friction will get worse. Do not expect bipartisan solutions on how best to address the coronavirus and rebuild the economy.
All told, should Trump win in 2020, his leadership style and political priorities will remain the same. This is worrisome. The pandemic most likely will change America more than any of us imagine. And the America of 2016 is not stagnant. In 2021 there will be more poor and struggling people, more people of color, and a myriad of other currently unforeseen challenges.
Is Trump the leader we need to get through this? Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” While not everyone would blame Trump for the depth of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., many question whether we are on the right path with our current leader. If we suffer a “second wave,” either this summer or in the fall, is Trump the guy we want to lead us? Based on his record, I vote “no.”
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. He is a former counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.