Trump has moved faster than any other president in terms of getting his agenda done. Frankly, it’s a bizarre situation that’s difficult to unpack. What is he actually doing right now? What’s his end goal? How does he feel about it? Let’s try to decipher what’s going on.
So one narrative floating around left-wing sources is that Trump is currently a puppet for Bannon. Bannon is the one crafting all these executive orders. He now has a seat on the national security council. And he has a long history of running a right-wing website that largely catered to racists. Is Trump a puppet with Bannon the power behind the scenes? Perhaps, but that feels incomplete. Don’t forget the other narrative that Trump is Putin’s puppet. Can he be both? What will happen when he gets conflicting orders from his various handlers?
Another narrative is that Trump is simply doing exactly what he said during his campaign. Banning Muslims. Building oil pipelines. Pulling out of trade agreements and denying the reality of climate change. Replacing Obamacare. That also feels incomplete. If his goal was the long-term change of the US government he’s going about it the wrong way. Executive orders can be rescinded relatively easily. The courts can overturn them. Congress can refuse to pay for them. Another president can override them. A better strategy would be to coordinate with Congress on legislation that’s a lot harder to get rid of. At this point, he seems to be operating entirely independently of Congress and just doing his own thing.
Finally, the last narrative that I’m aware of is that he’s simply incompetent and unprepared for the nature of the office he now holds. Rumors of him being obsessed with TV coverage of himself are rampant. He’s making decisions so fast he’s not considering the long term damage that could happen. His botched raid in Yemen. Banning legal residents from the country. Tweeting that his replacement for Obamacare will be much better without considering why Congress hasn’t put forward a plan in the last 4 years that can beat Obamacare if it’s so easy.
I have no idea which of these narratives most closely resembles reality. Maybe a little of all of them. Maybe none of them. I have my suspicions, but they’re just one man’s opinion. The real question here is what is he going to do next. And we can get a better idea of that.
We now have some data on which to base predictions of his behavior. In a given situation, think of the most right-wing, knee jerk reaction you can think of. Trump will do something a little to the right of that. It remains to be seen whether or not he walks it back to the middle, but there is at least some evidence that he will. Regardless, whatever his motivation for his behavior is, there is evidence that we’ll be fine. If he is trying to remake the US into a quasi-fascist state, or move the government so far to the right it doesn’t resemble anything the mainstream wants, or if he’s simply negotiating by taking the most extreme starting position and going from there, we’re fighting back. In terms of protests, in terms of Republican politicians speaking out, in terms of major companies standing against him. If his goals are to improve the country, he will accomplish them. And if his goals are to break the government, his success will only be temporary. I am in the position of being both more optimistic and pessimistic at the same time compared to when he was sworn in. More data will give us better predictions, but so far I see reason to not completely panic.