It has been less than one month since Donald Trump became America’s president-elect. Even though recount efforts may take place in three contentious states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin), even the Clinton campaign acknowledges that there is a very small chance those efforts will completely upend the election results.
There has been a lot of self-reflection and opposition through the US since Trump’s win. Protestors have filled the streets to make sure that their opposition against a Trump presidency is heard loud and clear. If this was a five step stages of grief program it looks like anti-Trump and pro-Hillary supporters are locked into anger.
This has been compounded even more so by the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2 million votes but lost the Electoral College. A stinging reminder that colonial American election laws meant to keep white males at the top of the political podium poll still reign supreme in the 21st century.
Now we must contend with the reality of a Trump presidency. Even though he has already flipped the script on some of his boldest promises – wall along the Mexican border, deportation plans, repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and “drain the swamp” battle cry – the shape and direction of his presidency that has taken shape through his recent political appointments is unnerving.
For all the bluster and Twitter pulpit promises to challenge the elite status quo and establishment Republican Party, Trump’s picks represent hyper-conservative and financial elite politics at their worst. Let’s take a look:
Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary – A former Goldman Sachs partner and deep-pocket Hollywood financier, Steve Mnuchin comes to the table with zero government experience and a promise to roll back foreign trade agreements, cut taxes for the top 1%, and impose new sanctions on Iran and Cuba, despite warnings from economists and national security experts that such actions would be destabilizing for both America and the associated regions. His appointment of a person that personifies Wall Street fits uneasily into Trump’s campaign attacks against the financial industry and a promise to protect the working-class from billionaire plunderers like Mnuchin.
Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary – Wilbur Ross, fondly dubbed the “king of bankruptcy”, would oversee one of the key US business agencies. Ross became a billionaire financier by acquiring troubled companies and selling them off for profit and restructuring. He would be in charge of Trump’s trade agenda, which includes scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, renegotiating the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, reviving the US steel industry, and boosting domestic infrastructure. All are lofty and contentious goals, and Ross’s appointment is just another hat-tip to Wall Street as being one billionaire’s promise to another to have its back.
Representative Tom Price (R-Georgia) to run the Department of Health and Human Services – A six term congressman from Georgia and member of the Tea Party caucus, Tom Price has been one of the most vocal critics of Obamacare since it was signed into law. Not only would he gladly lead the fight to dismantle a law that has brought healthcare to more than 20 million people, but he also is strongly opposed to abortion and would most likely seek to enact laws that would restrict a woman’s right to crucial reproductive healthcare services and constitutionally protected right to choose.
Elaine Chao to run the Department of Transportation – Elaine Chao served as Secretary of Transportation under George H. W. Bush and Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush. She is also married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). All this makes her a de facto example of an establishment appointment. Her primary goal would be to follow through on Trump’s campaign promise of investing $1 trillion in infrastructure projects (bridges, roadways, and transit systems) over the next ten years. That’s a significant promise considering congressional Republicans’ position that any increase in spending must be met with cuts elsewhere. To date, Trump has not specified how he would offset the spending increase.
Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary – Charter school advocate and big time GOP donor, Betsy DeVos’ appointment has been met with criticism from both sides. She originally supported the Common Core standards, a program hotly contested by the conservative wing of the party and one that was railed against by Trump on the campaign trail. Since her initial support she has started to lean away from Common Core and more towards supporting policies that would privatize and defund public education, making it harder for many low-income students to find affordable and easily accessible schooling. She comes with little classroom or education management experience.
Senator Jeff Session (R-Alabama) for Attorney General – Probably one of the most contentious picks to date, Jeff Sessions is a Tea Party conservative’s dream: he has waged war against legal immigration that has boosted our tech and agricultural industries, been deemed too racists by his own party to fill a federal judgeship, is a climate change denier, endorsed a ban on all Muslim immigrants, and has a history of voter suppression efforts at the state level. As Attorney General, Sessions would be able to set guidelines for prosecutors and select cases to investigate without congressional oversight or counsel. His choice has been praised by white supremacists and the KKK and, if confirmed, would most likely embrace policies compatible with that worldview.
Lieutenant General Mike Flynn for National Security Advisor – A retired intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was Trump’s main national security advisor during the campaign. He, like Trump, both support the false notion that Sharia law is taking over the US as well as maintain active personal business ties to Russia and the Middle East. If confirmed, he would have the final word on how a Trump presidency should respond to national crises. And while he deems “Islamic terrorism” as the greatest existential threat to America’s existence, he has failed to provide any detailed policy proposal to actually defeat it.
Presentative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) for CIA Director – Another Tea Party darling, Mike Pompeo helped lead the House Select Benghazi Committee against Hillary Clinton. He has opposed the Iran nuclear deal and supports the NSA’s data collection programs, despite them being ruled as unconstitutional and a violation of a person’s right to privacy. His confirmation would guarantee a further curbing of individual freedoms in the name of national security and renewed open hostility towards Iran, despite its compliance with the nuclear deal and reintroduction into the global economy.
Reince Priebus for White House Chief of Staff – One of Trump’s favorite punching bags during the campaign, Reince Priebus has been tapped to fill one of the two top advisor roles for a Trump administration. Priebus is one of the longest-serving chairmen of the GOP and has largely been popular amongst the various Republican factions. He previously served as the RNC’s general counsel and chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, and has been credited with bringing national figures like Paul Ryan to the forefront of the Republican Party. His selection has been considered an olive branch to the GOP establishment and a promise that Trump will include establishment policies in his presidency.
Steve Bannon as Senior Advisor – Easily the most repugnant of all of Trump’s picks, Steve Bannon’s selection has signaled to an alarmed Democratic Party, women, immigrants, and minority groups that white supremacism will be represented at the highest echelons of a Trump administration. He is a former naval office and Goldman Sachs investor who has been staunchly pro-Trump since the outset of his campaign. His website Breitbart News is a right-wing leading news site that was founded with the intention of being “unapologetically pro-freedom and pro-Israel” and a voice for the emerging “alt-right” by promoting racist, anti-Muslim, xenophobic, and misogynistic content deemed as news. His election is a slap in the face to Trump’s promise to represent all Americans.
Looking at the list above can make any sane person shudder. And whether the irony of all this is even acknowledged by his white, working-class base should come second to the fact that the next four years will be an all-out assault on some of President Obama’s most significant and impactful policies; the majority of which were put in place to give the common working person a leg up in a world dominated by billionaires and corporate greed as well as renew international faith in America’s foreign policies and presence.
If Trump supporters believe he really is “for them” than they will find themselves sadly mistaken. Instead, the above appointments point to a radical effort by Trump and his conservative compadres to put back into place the type of money-hungry, unregulated economy that was present in the late 1990s and early 2000s that caused the 2008 Recession as well as roll back many civil and human rights the majority of the populace has come to embrace (i.e. healthcare, gay marriage, reforming harsh criminal laws, gun laws, reproductive choice, green energy and renewable resources, and equal and overtime employment laws and protections – to name a few).
It’s time to fight like hell to make sure that doesn’t happen.