Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What If Trump Turns Out to Be a Great President?

 

Frankly, I had assumed the outcome would be otherwise. I don’t think my reaction to the 2016 election result was atypical among conservatives. I was delighted to dodge the bullet to the heart of the nation’s well-being that was Hillary Clinton. But I assumed Donald Trump would have no coherent agenda other than to try not to be Obama or Hillary and that he would likely step aside in 2020 after an ineffectual if not entertaining four years. Trump did not appear to have much of a policy compass or vision.

It never occurred to me that Trump could be highly successful or even a great president. His demeanor suggested that greatness was not to be his destiny. He often seems to share the same tendencies toward venality and petty vengefulness that characterized the Johnson and Nixon presidencies but with far less skill (and regard) for inside-baseball politics than those two. I assumed the bureaucracy would eventually tie Trump down as they always do with outsiders and perceived enemies and that they would stalemate any serious attempt at policy change.

Democrats and GOP NeverTrumpers convinced themselves the results would be dire. After the election, they issued a collective bipartisan heavy sigh and struck a noble pose waiting for the imminent invitation to deliver their I-told-you-so’s. Trumpian failure would inevitably unfold in an Aristotelian character-based tragedy in stark contrast to their own prescience and virtue which would leave them in a place of honor and adulation, gazing with mock sadness at the ashes of Trump’s presidency.

How many times have the anti-Trump faithful worked up the mock sorrow, the heavy sighs, and deep breaths getting ready for I-told-you-so’s, only to be disappointed? Mueller fizzled badly. The disastrous trade war with China morphed into an economy-boosting deal. The soaring humanitarian crisis at the border has faded as did the war with Iran. And the impeachment is a travesty. The prayed-for divine comeuppance just never arrives. Is there such a thing as Schadenfreudenus Interruptus?

It appears that without a very efficient use of expert opinion or intellectual depth, Donald Trump has repeatedly moved to sound and effective decisions on what seems like gut instinct. Can greatness emerge from that? Napoleon once said if he could choose, he would pick generals who were lucky over those who were known to be smart and competent. Did America do something like that in 2016?

Virtually every expectation (certainly mine) about the consequences of electing President Trump was wrong. The economy is spectacular. Most of the dictatorships to which Barack Obama bowed and scraped are now teetering on collapse and/or internal rebellion. The border crisis is abating to a degree no one thought possible. Only entrenched Democratic machines prevent even greater economic and social benefits for our most disadvantaged citizens from accruing faster. We have achieved energy independence. Elsewhere, Brexit and the Merkel idiocy of open borders have ended the myth of a bureaucratically managed nirvana delivered by elites.

Looking forward, what would a world be like in which the stranglehold of incompetent self-serving elites, dictators, and Marxist dinosaurs is broken everywhere and innovation, growth, and trade accelerate to bring about as yet unimagined material well-being around the globe?

Obviously, there is much unknown about the events leading up to the election and what will transpire over the following four years, but the prospect of a truly great presidency is now a distinct possibility. What then for Never-Trumpism?

The weird thing about Never-Trumpism is that it is not merely a position about candidate preference but became a kind of identity with a vested interest in Trumpian failure. For many, the reflexive condemnation of Donald Trump was not a policy difference but something personal, a way of asserting one’s own aesthetic and moral superiority to Donald Trump (or some caricature of him). Americans have always developed and expressed strong aversions to candidates and incumbents but with the understanding that voting is often a choice of the lesser of two bad policy choices. But to declare that one would vote for a candidate antithetical to all of one’s values just because his/her opponent is Donald Trump is unusual and kinda weird.

Twenty years from now, if Trump is remembered for ushering in a new economic golden age, the rollback of wars, the fall of oppressive regimes and substantive government reform, will elderly NeverTrumpers still be saying, “Yes but those tweets ..and he was so rude …and what he said about…” to their incredulous but wealthy grandchildren?

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 101 comments.

  1. Addiction Is A Choice Member

    With Trump, I thought we were getting another Nelson Rockefeller! I’ve never been so happy about being wrong in my whole life!

    • #1
    • January 17, 2020, at 12:55 PM PST
    • 20 likes
  2. Hoyacon Member

    I’m reasonably sure that Trump will never be considered a great president as long as the discussion starts with “According to a poll of presidential historians at major universities . . “

    • #2
    • January 17, 2020, at 12:58 PM PST
    • 29 likes
  3. Doctor Robert Member

    “What if…”. 
    Why do you use the conditional tense?

    The guy already IS a great POTUS. The unemployment rate alone satisfies me on that account.

    • #3
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:17 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  4. Locke On Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I’m reasonably sure that Trump will never be considered a great president as long as the discussion starts with “According to a poll of presidential historians at major universities . . “

    The circumstances that would cause him to be judged historically great would be such that said historians’ opinions would no longer matter.

    • #4
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:22 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    “What if…”.
    Why do you use the conditional tense?

    The guy already IS a great POTUS. The unemployment rate alone satisfies me on that account.

    And there have been literally hundreds of other things.

    • #5
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:35 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    Heh, I guess we can proclaim him Donaldus Magnus. 😜

    • #6
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:35 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  7. PHCheese Member

    He has totally surprised me. Great President.

    • #7
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:38 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  8. philo Member

    Absent the irrational, hyperbolic, persistent opposition we have witnessed, I can imagine a first term President Trump checking off several important agenda boxes (while being shepherded into mediocrity by the Republican caucuses) then declaring victory after one term and easing into a retirement of bragging about how much more he could have done if he had chosen to run again. Instead, the irrational, hyperbolic, persistent opposition has not only energized the man and his base but made him largely politically anti-fragile. That will be a useful and interesting superpower at his disposal during the second term. The results just may be what you propose.

    • #8
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:40 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  9. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The other thing here is “What if Trump is a great president because he doesn’t do all that much?” — i.e. what if most of the country can pretty much take care of itself without micromanaging from Washington, and Trump’s greatness is in part because he’s not part of the elite crowd that thinks they know how everyone can best lead their lives?

    Trump has a few things he’s been obsessive about — tariffs, the border wall — but a lot of things where his actions have mainly been inactions, or actions like executive orders relaxing regulations so that the federal government does less. And the fact that the Democratic leaders and their supporters in media are so obsessed with trying to get the public angry at Trump’s actions means they really haven’t practiced their normal ground game of taking 1-2 topics and trying to demonize the GOP president on that over a long period. With Trump, if Crisis A hasn’t produced a public reaction within 3-4 days, go on to Crisis B, and that ADD pretty much has allowed most of the country to simply go on with it’s business.

    Many on the left still can’t accept the idea that Reagan was a great president — they’d probably rather drink lye and burn their eyes out with white-hot pokers than ever admit Trump even has a possibility of achieving that status, long-term. But that’s where we could be if the current conditions economically continue and the foreign policy situation remains the same or improves (not sure how the media would handle Iranians toppling the rule of the mullahs while Trump’s in the White House).

    • #9
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:45 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  10. Arahant Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    The other thing here is “What if Trump is a great president because he doesn’t do all that much?

    Worked for the greatest PotUS of the Twentieth Century: Silent Cal.

    • #10
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:49 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  11. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    The other thing here is “What if Trump is a great president because he doesn’t do all that much?

    Worked for the greatest PotUS of the Twentieth Century: Silent Cal.

    …though Trump’s never going to get the nickname “Silent Don”.

    • #11
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:52 PM PST
    • 15 likes
  12. GrannyDude Member

    I envy the historians (the real ones) who get to write about the Trump phenomenon with hindsight. It’s fascinating. 

    From every perspective, he is the opposite of Obama, but this one strikes me in particular: Obama came into office on such a wave of good feeling that he and his presidency were protected from the sort of scrutiny and criticism that would’ve protected him (and us) from his worst impulses, and made him at least a somewhat better (less disastrous?) president. 

    Trump has endured the opposite—constant criticism and the unrelenting, suspicious or openly hostile gaze of just about everyone, including a big chunk of his own party and a not-inconsequential numbers of those who voted for him. One of my mother’s pithy sayings is that everyone behaves better when there are witnesses. It’s possible that the absurd, unflatteringly self-revealing, self-destructive, snotty and arrogant press, plus the (ditto) pearl-clutching Republicans and the (ditto) stars and starlets in Hollywood are all contributing to the success of a president who, left to his own devices as Obama was, might not have done as well.

    Odd thought. And just a suggestion—I could be wrong! (But Ol’ Bathos, I think you’re right). 

     

    • #12
    • January 17, 2020, at 1:56 PM PST
    • 15 likes
  13. Arahant Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    The other thing here is “What if Trump is a great president because he doesn’t do all that much?

    Worked for the greatest PotUS of the Twentieth Century: Silent Cal.

    …though Trump’s never going to get the nickname “Silent Don”.

    More like the Mad Tweeter!

    • #13
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:08 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I considered Trump to be a brick thrown through the window of the Ruling Class as described in 2010 by Codevilla in his essay “The Ruling Class.” The fact that he has held opinions like those he is showing now for 20 years was unknown to me. Steve Bannon has a great interview with PBS on the Trump story. It’s over 2 hours and I almost never watch videos but I may watch this one again.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm5xxlajTW0

    There is a second interview, I haven’t watched.

    • #14
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:08 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  15. Sweezle Member

    He’s had a surprising number of accomplishments even this month. Trump exceeded my expectations.

    • #15
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:21 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  16. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    I envy the historians (the real ones) who get to write about the Trump phenomenon with hindsight. It’s fascinating.

    From every perspective, he is the opposite of Obama, but this one strikes me in particular: Obama came into office on such a wave of good feeling that he and his presidency were protected from the sort of scrutiny and criticism that would’ve protected him (and us) from his worst impulses, and made him at least a somewhat better (less disastrous?) president.

    Trump has endured the opposite—constant criticism and the unrelenting, suspicious or openly hostile gaze of just about everyone, including a big chunk of his own party and a not-inconsequential numbers of those who voted for him. One of my mother’s pithy sayings is that everyone behaves better when there are witnesses. It’s possible that the absurd, unflatteringly self-revealing, self-destructive, snotty and arrogant press, plus the (ditto) pearl-clutching Republicans and the (ditto) stars and starlets in Hollywood are all contributing to the success of a president who, left to his own devices as Obama was, might not have done as well.

    Odd thought. And just a suggestion—I could be wrong! (But Ol’ Bathos, I think you’re right).

    Scott Adams was making the same point today. Saying Trump is highly competitive and the adversity energized him. And absolutely beyond personality it’s human nature. The best athletes thrive when the game is on the line.

     

    • #16
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:22 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  17. Annefy Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    The other thing here is “What if Trump is a great president because he doesn’t do all that much?” — i.e. what if most of the country can pretty much take care of itself without micromanaging from Washington, and Trump’s greatness is in part because he’s not part of the elite crowd that thinks they know how everyone can best lead their lives?

    Trump has a few things he’s been obsessive about — tariffs, the border wall — but a lot of things where his actions have mainly been inactions, or actions like executive orders relaxing regulations so that the federal government does less. And the fact that the Democratic leaders and their supporters in media are so obsessed with trying to get the public angry at Trump’s actions means they really haven’t practiced their normal ground game of taking 1-2 topics and trying to demonize the GOP president on that over a long period. With Trump, if Crisis A hasn’t produced a public reaction within 3-4 days, go on to Crisis B, and that ADD pretty much has allowed most of the country to simply go on with it’s business.

    Many on the left still can’t accept the idea that Reagan was a great president — they’d probably rather drink lye and burn their eyes out with white-hot pokers than ever admit Trump even has a possibility of achieving that status, long-term. But that’s where we could be if the current conditions economically continue and the foreign policy situation remains the same or improves (not sure how the media would handle Iranians toppling the rule of the mullahs while Trump’s in the White House).

    I describe this as “taking your foot off the brake”. Obama had both feet slammed to the floor board.

    Much of what has occurred in the past three-plus years is a testament to the American people.

    P.S. Edited to add: which is not to say that I don’t have a lot of admiration for Trump. Likewise, he has a lot of faith and admiration in the American people.

    • #17
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:33 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  18. Django Member

    What if … His critics will point out how much better it would have been if he had done things their way, while grudgingly admitting one or two of his accomplishments. 

    • #18
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:39 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  19. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Imagine where we would be if he hadn’t been hamstrung by the Deep State, the Democrats and they’re Never Useful Idiots and most of all by the backstabbing duplicitous GOPe. 

    • #19
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:40 PM PST
    • 17 likes
  20. danok1 Member

    Old Bathos: will elderly NeverTrumpers still be saying, “Yes but those tweets ..and he was so rude …and what he said about…” to their incredulous but wealthy grandchildren?

    Yes, of course they will. 

    • #20
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:43 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  21. philo Member

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    The other thing here is “What if Trump is a great president because he doesn’t do all that much?” — i.e. what if most of the country can pretty much take care of itself without micromanaging from Washington, and Trump’s greatness is in part because he’s not part of the elite crowd that thinks they know how everyone can best lead their lives?

    Trump has a few things he’s been obsessive about — tariffs, the border wall — but a lot of things where his actions have mainly been inactions, or actions like executive orders relaxing regulations so that the federal government does less. And the fact that the Democratic leaders and their supporters in media are so obsessed with trying to get the public angry at Trump’s actions means they really haven’t practiced their normal ground game of taking 1-2 topics and trying to demonize the GOP president on that over a long period. With Trump, if Crisis A hasn’t produced a public reaction within 3-4 days, go on to Crisis B, and that ADD pretty much has allowed most of the country to simply go on with it’s business.

    Many on the left still can’t accept the idea that Reagan was a great president — they’d probably rather drink lye and burn their eyes out with white-hot pokers than ever admit Trump even has a possibility of achieving that status, long-term. But that’s where we could be if the current conditions economically continue and the foreign policy situation remains the same or improves (not sure how the media would handle Iranians toppling the rule of the mullahs while Trump’s in the White House).

    I describe this as “taking your foot off the brake”. Obama had both feet slammed to the floor board.

    Much of what has occurred in the past three-plus years is a testament to the American people.

    P.S. Edited to add: which is not to say that I don’t have a lot of admiration for Trump. Likewise, he has a lot of faith and admiration in the American people.

    You are correct…but I prefer to put it as Obama had his foot on the throat of “the country” for many years. Much of what we have seen under Trump is the natural reaction to just not having that boot heel holding it down anymore. But there is also an added effect of being “spring loaded” to bounce back as soon as the oppressor was removed. The pump was so primed that it jumped into action the day after the election. (Hillary’s boot would have been even heavier than Obama’s.)

    • #21
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:49 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  22. Annefy Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: will elderly NeverTrumpers still be saying, “Yes but those tweets ..and he was so rude …and what he said about…” to their incredulous but wealthy grandchildren?

    Yes, of course they will.

    They’ll be saying something like: can you imagine how much more awesome it would be were it not for DT?

    (I had a lefty say something similar to me recently)

    • #22
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:51 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  23. Annefy Member

    philo (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    The other thing here is “What if Trump is a great president because he doesn’t do all that much?” — i.e. what if most of the country can pretty much take care of itself without micromanaging from Washington, and Trump’s greatness is in part because he’s not part of the elite crowd that thinks they know how everyone can best lead their lives?

    Trump has a few things he’s been obsessive about — tariffs, the border wall — but a lot of things where his actions have mainly been inactions, or actions like executive orders relaxing regulations so that the federal government does less. And the fact that the Democratic leaders and their supporters in media are so obsessed with trying to get the public angry at Trump’s actions means they really haven’t practiced their normal ground game of taking 1-2 topics and trying to demonize the GOP president on that over a long period. With Trump, if Crisis A hasn’t produced a public reaction within 3-4 days, go on to Crisis B, and that ADD pretty much has allowed most of the country to simply go on with it’s business.

    Many on the left still can’t accept the idea that Reagan was a great president — they’d probably rather drink lye and burn their eyes out with white-hot pokers than ever admit Trump even has a possibility of achieving that status, long-term. But that’s where we could be if the current conditions economically continue and the foreign policy situation remains the same or improves (not sure how the media would handle Iranians toppling the rule of the mullahs while Trump’s in the White House).

    I describe this as “taking your foot off the brake”. Obama had both feet slammed to the floor board.

    Much of what has occurred in the past three-plus years is a testament to the American people.

    P.S. Edited to add: which is not to say that I don’t have a lot of admiration for Trump. Likewise, he has a lot of faith and admiration in the American people.

    You are correct…but I prefer to put it as Obama had his foot on the throat of “the country” for many years. Much of what we have seen under Trump is the natural reaction to just not having that boot heel holding it down anymore. But there is also an added effect of being “spring loaded” to bounce back as soon as the oppressor was removed. The pump was so primed that it jumped into action the day after the election. (Hillary’s boot would have been even heavier than Obama’s.)

    You said it better.

    • #23
    • January 17, 2020, at 2:59 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Annefy Member

    Somewhere in the hundreds and hundreds of comments I made prior to the 2016 election and immediately post, I said something like:

    Okay. We’re all prepared for a disastrous Trump presidency; have we considered and are we prepared for his tenure to be successful?

    It was meant as a caution to the NTs; I could see that they were too committed to the disastrous scenario and it would be hard for them to walk it back.

    What never dawned on me is that they would spend their time trying to ensure DT would not be successful by undermining him and being hyper-critical. It also didn’t dawn on me that some would actually abandon some previously held principles.

    I thought I was cynical in 2016. I don’t know what I am now, I guess “a lot more cynical”?

    But I will always be grateful to DT for causing so many to show their hand.

    • #24
    • January 17, 2020, at 3:09 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  25. EODmom Coolidge

     

    Reagan had letters -lots of them- no one read until years after his death. It was easier to think he was a superficial dumb actor. The man could write. Trump may not have “foreign policy expertise” but he knows people and in particular people who have accomplished a lot and made real stuff. And politicians, foreign or domestic, typically have done neither. But he does know people and is unlikely to be intimidated by those who haven’t accomplished much or made anything. If all he does is shut down a few agencies and chase a few Rats from their hiding places and hold off the totalitarians for a decade or two I figure we are ahead. The totalitarian never quits and civilization requires constant defense and vigilance. 

     

    • #25
    • January 17, 2020, at 4:09 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  26. Richard Finlay Member

    Old Bathos: Democrats and GOP Never-Trumpers convinced themselves the results would be more dire. After the election, they issued a collective bi-partisan heavy sigh and struck a noble pose waiting for the imminent invitation to deliver their I-told-you-so’s. Trumpian failure would inevitably unfold in an Aristotelian character-based tragedy in stark contrast to their own prescience and virtue which would leave them in a place of honor and adulation, gazing with mock sadness at the ashes of Trump’s presidency.

    I kinda wish I had written this ….

    It seems to me that most virtue-signalers aren’t at all aware that they are doing it.

    • #26
    • January 17, 2020, at 4:10 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  27. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    philo (View Comment):
    But there is also an added effect of being “spring loaded” to bounce back as soon as the oppressor was removed. The pump was so primed that it jumped into action the day after the election. (Hillary’s boot would have been even heavier than Obama’s.)

    What we are seeing now is the recovery we would have had after 2008 but for Obama and the Democrats. Bannon, on his PBS interview, points out that the ZIRP had devastated pension plans and that the Treasury reserves have increased by $6 trillion since 2008. All that money came from middle and lower classes and went to the rich. Those with 401ks invested in stocks have done well but the rest have not benefitted.

    • #27
    • January 17, 2020, at 4:26 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  28. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Annefy (View Comment):
    What never dawned on me is that they would spend their time trying to ensure DT would not be successful by undermining him and being hyper-critical. It also didn’t dawn on me that some would actually abandon some previously held principles.

    Can you imagine if the NT’s saw Trump as an engine they could harness to get conservative positions moved forward? Instead, they worked against him and lost a major opportunity.

     

    • #28
    • January 17, 2020, at 5:32 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  29. Henry Racette Contributor

    Old Bathos:

    Democrats and GOP Never-Trumpers convinced themselves the results would be more dire. After the election, they issued a collective bi-partisan heavy sigh and struck a noble pose waiting for the imminent invitation to deliver their I-told-you-so’s. Trumpian failure would inevitably unfold in an Aristotelian character-based tragedy in stark contrast to their own prescience and virtue which would leave them in a place of honor and adulation, gazing with mock sadness at the ashes of Trump’s presidency.

    Excellent post, and this paragraph was particularly nice.

    • #29
    • January 17, 2020, at 5:38 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  30. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    And this man kicks any environmentalists who still don’t get how getting out of the Paris Accord was the right thing to do:

    https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=628471044235355

    • #30
    • January 17, 2020, at 7:24 PM PST
    • 2 likes