What will Donald Trump be like as President of the United States?

Many are worried that an authoritarian, with racist and homophobic tendencies, is the most powerful man in the world. He exhibits all the properties of being a proto-fascist, given the right influences his presidency could turn America into a fascist democracy. Anyone who is a liberal, libertarian, centrist and conservative who is deemed worthy of being supporters of those ideologies should be opposed to a Trump presidency partisanly. His radical and extremist tendencies mean that an ultra-conservative agenda being thrown on America is the best we can hope for.

When Ronald Reagan became president, many overreacted thinking this was a disaster in the waiting. Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency has drawn comparisons to Reagan. The fundamental difference between the two is that, though, both were on the right one was a conservative while the other is an authoritarian. The authoritarian will pretend to be a Republican conservative, but this is merely to woo gullible conservatives who are looking for their next Reagan.

Trump has also been wooing the far-right into supporting him, he’ll be delighted the support alt-right “news” agency Breitbart has shown to him. He has already rewarded Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, with the position of being his Chief Strategist. This should be highly concerning to Republicans as he as avowed to destroy Paul Ryan, the leader of the Republican Party in Congress, who represents what the fiscal and social conservatism that the party is renowned for. He’s interested in turning the Republican party into a right-wing European-like nationalist party, this isn’t someone interested in preserving either the Constitution or small government.

Elsewhere he has appointed figures you’d associate with being more friendly to the establishment Republican party. Most of the factions within the are represented. At first this may seem like an attempt by Trump to act as the unifier of the party, the person who can unify the right so that they can shape America in their image. Conventional wisdom would say this suggests Donald Trump is open to moderating influences, that the far-right of the Republican party wont get its whole way.

Such thinking is dangerous, primarily because it underestimates how much of an influence the alt-right will have over policy. The alt-right and Steve Bannon will not play the political game in a conventional manner, their approach will be very aggressive using bully tactics to force more timid members of Trump’s team to fall in line. This aggressiveness will play off Trump who’ll feel he’ll have to be the person who lays down the law in his administration, this will encourage Trump to become radical and extreme as he asserts his authority over those beneath him. It will also ensure a highly competitive element exists between those representing the factions of the Republican party to gain influence over Trump. The competition will encourage more extremist policies to be proposed as each group tries to demonstrate to Trump that their policies will ensure Trump is a strong leader reshaping America dramatically, this will only play into hands of the alt-right though.

Trump isn’t an experienced political leader who is in the know about how the US governs itself. This increases the likelihood that he will be more open to be influenced, even manipulated, by subordinates who see Trump as a vessel to enforce their interpretation of conservatism or nationalism on the country. Trump being the narcissistic he is will play on to anything that appears to strengthen and consolidates his own power and interests, even if at the expense of the common good for the country.

Some key areas will influence how Trump governs. First, we have Breitbart factor. If Trump shows signs of becoming cozy with the establishment Republican party, Breitbart will certainly play up which will undermine Trump significantly. The presence of Steve Bannon as Trump’s political strategist indicates this scenario will not occur. The scenario to really worry about is Breitbart undermining Trump for not being radical enough. Breitbart can quite simply escalate the extremity of their stances forcing Trump further and further to the right.

There are limitations to Breitbart’s influence. Congress could oppose Trump if he became more extreme without due consideration to the conditions facing the country. Conservatives who start getting weary that Trump is the sort of President that will seek to undermine the Constitution when it becomes an obstacle can not only obstruct the extreme proposals, but become obstructionist against the use of any proposals by the executive. Trump must keep Congress and the Senate on side, which will moderate Breitbart’s influence as long as those in Congress and the Senate aren’t pressurred by the far-right.

Suppose a terror attack were to occur on American soil, suppose further than it is on par with 9/11. Such an attack will encourage extremist elements to pursue more radical proposals to deal with Muslims and immigrants. Islamaphobia and xenophobia in particular will be stoked up which could provide the necessary pressure on establishment Republican to be seen as Strong on Defence. Daesh know this would further help their cause making the possibility of an attack under Trump’s presidency more probable. Even successive minor terrorist attacks could be used to raise the fear gauge of the American public, with Breitbart ready at hand to exploit it for political gain.

Second, we have the authoritarian factor which is closely related to the first. Conservatism has always been about law and order, but the Trump administration will essentially give the police free rein to abuse their power. Given the vindictiveness of Trump himself, it’s entirely possible the police and other domestic security agencies, including the FBI, could be used to settle grievances. Such events would be a clear abuse of power, the question would be whether Congress and the Senate felt they were powerful enough to challenge the administration.

If such abuse of power were to lead to indications that Republicans could lose a significant amount of seats in 2018, it is plausible to think Republicans will fight Trump on this. Republicans may tolerate such abuse if it occurs against useful enemies, such as the Democrats and institutions associated with liberalism. Despite all the rhetoric, Republicans are not on principle adherents to the Constitution. They are quite happy to gerrymandering Congress districts to give them power by default. Could they go further if they thought it could aid their electoral chances?

Going back to our scenario of a major terrorist attack occurring in the US, would it be possible that Trump would try implement emergency measures which further enhance the power of the executive. Again Republicans weren’t opposed to expansions of executive power during the reign of George W. Bush, now a Republican is president would their opposition to the expansion of executive power cease? It would convenient, to say the least, if Republicans opposed expanding the powers of the President simply because the President was a black Democrat. A major terrorist attack would give more incentives for Republicans to ignore their previous criticisms of Obama in the “interests of national security”.

Even without a terrorist attack, Barack Obama has overseen the expansion of the surveillance state in the fight against Daesh and Islamic extremism. This is something I have been very critical of over the years, libertarians and liberals who have rightly protested the growing influence of the NSA will now feel vindicated with Trump as President. The Home of Liberty may have no sense of privacy by the time the 2020 Presidential Election comes around. Worse the surveillance of citizens could be used to identify political enemies who have tried to damage Trump, or those in his administration.

After all this, we have Mike Pence who has shown willingness to torture gay people in order to covert them into straight people. We have his promises to deport 3 million illegal immigrants, which will involve a large expansion in police activity. Whether the mysterious exclusion of Trump’s promise to ban all Muslims entering the US from his website on election day is indicating a change of tact is questionable, but we should expect measures being put in place to tackle extremism from Daesh.

The third factor will be the economy. Trump’s economic policies involve introducing massive tax cuts particularly for the wealthy that will dwarf the Bush tax cuts, introduce a stimulus bill by building infrastructure and introducing protectionist measures regards trade and immigration. If the stimulus is an euphemism for building the wall along Mexico’s border and not an sign that we will see widespread improvement in the building of houses, apartments and office buildings in areas that have been hurt particularly bad by the 2008 financial crisis; it will be clear his economic policies will be disastrous. The tax cuts will see a severe increase in both the budget and trade deficit of the US, even with excessive spending cuts proposed by the likes of Paul Ryan. The wall will create jobs but investors and entrepreneurs will lose confidence in setting up businesses in America.

Which brings us to his protectionist policies, which we fundamentally damage the US economy. Silicon Valley will be hit hard as they’ll see a dearth of talented developers immigrating to California to work for companies like Apple and Google. As I said in the previous paragraph, entrepreneurs will less keen of setting up startups. Multinational companies will be hit hard as their internal costs will definitely rise. The introduction of tariffs will increase inflation, which will hit the poor hardest, and likely cause similar tariffs to be imposed on exported goods, which will hinder America’s industrial prospects and resultant job growth.

Trump has indicated that measures within Obamacare that make sure insurance companies can’t deny insurance to sick people is a positive indication and consistent with his utterance during the Presidential Nomination Debates that he’d be opposed to seeing people die on the streets due to lack of insurance. Despite that, it’s likely that Congressional Republicans will have a large say in ensuring many do get their insurance taken away from them. Republicans have been vehemently opposed to any measure that promotes “socialised medicine”, even when Republicans initially proposed it.

The most dangerous part of his economic policies would be the introduction of tariffs. It would most likely start a set of trade wars hailing in a new era of global protectionism, which will make a significant proportion of the globe poorer. This is worrying because it will further promote the conditions for rises in political extremism throughout Europe, the Middle East and even the East. The last time trade wars were initiated was during the 1930s, which helped set up the conditions for the Second World War.

Looking at events and trends now, there is a scary parallel to the 1930s. The rise of nativism, nationalism and higher levels of support for protectionism are very similar to the rise of Nazism and the far-right in certain parts of Europe during the 30s. The world would be a much more dangerous world after Trump introduces tariffs. The struggles the European Union is having staying united, particularly after the Brexit result, could destabilise and deteriorate the world sufficiently that the fires of hell could upon us.

Fourth we have his foreign policy. Trump has emphasised that he wants friendlier relations with Russia. The two countries have had tense relations for a while which has destabilised the global order. In theory friendlier relations should be a good thing, it would indicate that the two most major military powers on the planet were willing to collaborate to tackle threats like Daesh.

In practice Putin’s aim as President of Russia is to increase Russia’s global standing with particular focus on its military power, given the Russian economy is neither performing well, nor has major opportunities to see Chinese levels of growth. Putin’s strategy is to weaken NATO by encouraging factions to emerge within it that are more complimentary to Russia. The rise of the alt-right in the western world fits into Putin’s strategy perfectly, many leaders of the movement from Trump, Nigel Farage and Marie Le Pen have admitted their admiration for Putin.

Given the closer relations between a Trump administration and Putin, it will allow Putin more security against a growing superpower it does deem a threat. The rise of China has been remarkable, its growth rates are enormous and it has a massive population allowing it to produce en masse on a scale no country, other than India, can conceive of. China and Russia are next door neighbours, given Russia’s economic struggles it makes sense for it to try ally itself with an economic superpower.

Key for Putin, though, is that America would be there for him. Putin will woo Trump to implement policy that will hinder the Chinese, such as introducing trade tariffs. Closer ties between America and Russia will also offer Putin to spread his own philosophy of governance, which is incompatible with liberal democracy. The West’s insistence of the superiority of the model of liberal democracy has been one of the areas that has encouraged a divergence between the Wests interests and Russia’s, alongside the fact the west is troubled with the idea of being reliant on Russia for its energy demands.

Essentially Putin isn’t interested in the US because he wants to reconcile with liberal democracy, instead it is about expanding Russia’s sphere of influence to counter America’s and China’s. If Putin’s strategy works, it will hinder the United States geopolitical power base due to the facts is natural allies own power base will have been undermined. The European Union is facing an existential threat which will hurt the US and NATO, while giving impetus for Russia to gain allies in the south of Europe, who’ll be very unhappy with the manner the Northern European states, particularly Germany, has dealt with them during the Eurozone crisis.

Russia may just get enough help from the Trump administration to give Russia the chance to get a spurt of growth, while damaging a Chinese economy that is increasingly limping along nowadays.

Trump, therefore, will be a disastrous President because his foreign and economic policies will only enable Russia to take advantage of the chaos caused as a result. The national interests of the US and their natural allies in the West will be severely undermined in both the short and long-term. His tendencies of being gullible, potentially even baited, could undermine his ability to project strength internationally which will thrill Putin. Without realising it, he may find himself a pawn in a larger chess game which he lacks the sophistication to compete in.

Finally, we have the Republican party itself. The party was split only earlier this year because of the rise of Trump. There will be a large proportion of Republicans who are uncomfortable with the President-elect, that leaves room for his presidency to be undermined or even impeachment procedures being passed if Trump finds himself in a scandal. The Republicans still have to cater to their voters as well, they will not want to support a Trump administration that goes of the rails.

The Republican in Congress and the Senate don’t have as much power as they’d like to oppose Trump. First the base of the Republican party voters for Trump for the nomination. The manner and tactics used in winning has also granted the base to exercise racism, sexism and homophobia more openly. This increases the likelihood that the more extreme elements who support supremacist policies could have greater sway over Republicans.

Essentially if the Republican party is getting more radicalised, then Republican congressman and senators who have to appeal to such demographics, that are getting radicalised, which will only encourage more radicalisation among Republicans. Inevitably it will be Breitbart and other radical right news outlets that will encourage this radicalisation.

If the base starts to turn against Trump, realising he is in fact a fascist and not the next Ronald Reagan then that will give a great impetus for Republicans in Washington to act as the necessary check on Trump to make sure he doesn’t abuse his power. Not only that but it will undermine the alt-right’s hold over the Republican party and further may lead conservatives within the party to question how someone like Trump could even become President. There’s a chance Trump will end up being a lame duck President with substantial opposition from Republicans and Democrats.

However Republicans in the senate do in fact have to thank Trump for their performances, except for Marco Rubio who outperformed Trump anyway. This gives Trump leverage over some senators, which could very well last given the proneness for the use of intimidation tactics among certain members of his choice of staff.

In the early days of his presidency, expect him to accomplish a lot as there will be a fear among Republicans that opposing Trump could be seen as being disloyal, and not a principled protest. How long Trump can keep that fear instilled among Republicans will be key to determining whether Trump, and the nativist-populist right, sets the agenda in Washington, or whether Trump ends up legislating policies traditionally associated with the current Republican party while lambasting the “corruption” of his Republican congressman and senators.

The key for sensible Republicans is to win the battle of influence over Trump, play to his narcissism by demonstrating to him that merely following a traditional Republican platform will be sufficient to him being seen as a great president. Alienating Trump from Bannon will be key to the political survival of Paul Ryan and his supporters. Who wins these, and many other, battles in the competitive game his staff, Congress and te Senate will be playing will determine what type of president Trump will be. The alt-right are better prepared for this battle compared to establishment Republicans, worryingly, but the establishment currently just about holds the keys to power.

Conclusion

Without a shadow of a doubt Donald Trump will be a blight on America. Many considered George W. Bush to be a moronic president, we are about to find out that he may have been a more thoughtful person than he let on with a very poor sense of judgement. Trump is a national and international disgrace who’ll only encourage the rise of the far right throughout Western Europe.

In the Land of Liberty, authoritarianism will reign. The Presidency of Trump will be a big test on whether the Constitution does in fact have the necessary checks to ensure people’s inalienable rights are secured. It will also test whether American conservatives are truly motivated by preserving the Constitution, or whether it is a front to hide a sinister agenda.

In my opinion Trump will either be an incompetent proto-fascist president who is heavily restricted in his ability to enforce his agenda, while using demonising and abusive tactics to compensate for his lack of authority and to be vindictive to Republicans who are brave enough to take the heat. He’ll get his victories as some Republicans cowardly support Trump.

Alternatively the Republican party will move further to the right ensuring that the projection of power Trump will want to show both domestically and internationally will have a highly authoritarian base with a tendency to adopt more extremist policies the longer his reign as President continues.

It’s incredibly likely that he will end up being a pawn to Vladimir Putin, even signals of strength will be coaxed by Putin to appeal to Trump’s narcisstic desire to appear as the World’s Most Powerful Man while in fact furthering Putin’s own agenda.

Ultimately sensible people all around the world can only hope he ends up being a lame duck President with little power whose vindictive streak will ultimately leave a sour enough taste in the minds of voters to vote the distasteful President out of office.

At worse, America becomes a fascist democracy in which conservatives, liberals, centrists and even libertarians (hopefully) unite to oppose and undo the damage he will inflict domestically and globally. Hopefully his policies don’t lead up to a repeat of the 1930s, that it is just scare-mongering drawn about by the parallel events. But with a fragmented Europe which could break apart politically and economically in a sudden and violent fashion, pray that Trump’s bombastic tendencies have been seasoned out of him by then. Escalation may result in a hell no one would want to witness.

Trump is a proto-fascist who has decided to appoint a fascist and white supremacist as his chief political strategist. Those close to Trump will influence him greatly, given his lack of political knowhow. Trump’s appointment, plus the chance Breitbart will increase their ever-growing influence, suggests that Trump will have far-right elements to his policies at the very least.

Will there be a middle ground? Most likely not, then again his victory at the election was also unexpected. Maybe, just maybe, he might surprise us all while still being an appalling President.

Gareth Mawer
I consider myself a left libertarian committed to promoting the philosophy of liberty, even though I do not always support proposals that are normally considered libertarian. Georgism and mutualism have had profound influences over my beliefs, though I'm not afraid to digress from them were necessary. My mains interests are politics, economics and philosophy.