The Trump train has started moving, a week after the baggy, orange, badger-eyed skinflake became President-elect. Last Thursday, he met with President Barack Obama, with a televised sit-down in which Obama was relaxed as ever, and Trump had the air of someone who had only just realised what he had gotten himself into. The meeting was to go over the basic matters of the transition. Very basic, as it turned out. Reports after the meet made it clear that Trump and his entourage had no idea that the White House staff wouldn’t be staying on after inauguration, and that they would have to staff the whole thing themselves. The suggestion that this will be a government of basic confusion was added to on Sunday night, in a 60 Minutes interview — with the whole Trump family seated on gold chairs — when Trump said that he would appoint judges to overturn Roe v Wade, but that same-sex marriage had been “settled by the court” — which suggests he either doesn’t understand the difference, or he was playing to the base.
On Friday, it was announced that Trump wouldn’t be putting his substantial assets in a blind trust — there is no requirement for a president so to do. Instead his family would be running things — while also advising Trump personally. That’s especially so for his son-in-law Jared Kushner (Ivanka’s husband), who will be acting as an unpaid adviser. One of the first things Trump might do is approve the “Dakota Access Pipeline” (if Obama doesn’t do it first), in which a company of his has a stake. It’s going to be like this all the way through. But if Trump delivers even partly on his promises, a huge section of the country won’t give a damn.
On the weekend it was announced that Trump’s chief of staff would be Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee — an establishment choice, creating a bridge to the Republican establishment. But also named as “strategist”, i.e. consigliere, was Steve Bannon, who had been heavily involved in his campaign, and had previously run Breitbart News, the hard-right website. Breitbart is a viciously sexist, racist publication, and Bannon himself has been accused of anti-Semitism (he didn’t want to send his kids to a school because of “the number of Jews” that attended). Bannon’s appointment is being greeted with dismay, even by many on the right, and by groups like the Jewish Anti-Defamation League — who may now be regretting attaching the “anti-Semite” label to every critic of Israel, however mild.
Trump’s appointment of a cabinet is getting off to a slow start because chaos, but one name being spoken of for secretary of state is John Bolton, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the UN, who wanted to abolish the UN. Bolton is a fierce neocon, and it’s argued that this appointment will alienate Trump’s base, etc, which appears to be another expression of the fond hope that it will all go horribly wrong for Trump. But I suspect most of his supporters won’t care or notice. They wanted domestic change — and there aren’t going to be any nation-building wars. There may be carpet-bombing of Islamic State, which is exactly what they want.
Which of Trump’s policies will survive into actual government remains to be seen. After he had met with Obama, he talked about listening to ways in which aspects of the Affordable Care Act could be retained — which he will have to do anyway, since features such as a ban on non-insurance of pre-existing conditions are very popular — and House speaker Paul Ryan, when interviewed, has gently talked down the idea of tariffs. The “wall” is slowly disappearing, though the commitment to deport 2 million to 3 million people “quickly” will simply mean the increase in a process that is already underway: the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes.
Even the protests that coursed through major cities last week have abated somewhat, to the surprise and dismay of many. They may revive, but the left and liberals are consumed in a fairly bitter war of blame, of which more later. There is a huge push on to “not normalise” Trump. But the system has normalised him, the immense processes of American power. Slowly, people are beginning to get used to the idea of President Trump, for better or worse.