How bad would Trump presidency be?

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The world is about to end.

Or civil war is about to break out in Dayton, Ohio.

Believe it?

Glenn Beck, Erick Erickson, and other Republicans have convinced a lot of people that we are doomed if Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination. I know some people who are nearly incapacitated with fear and grief after last night’s Nevada caucuses. Because they listen to Glenn Beck. Sad!

Here’s the thing: nothing is as bad as you think it will be while you’re thinking about it. 

Watch this great TED talk by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert. It’s one of the top 20 TED talks of all time for a reason. Dan is a brilliant guy who studies happiness.

In case you weren’t paying attention, here are three big takeaways that will help you tomorrow and for the rest of your life.

One year after winning the lottery or losing the use of your legs, you’ll be just as happy as you were before the event.

These are the data. You failed the pop quiz, and you’re hardly five minutes into the lecture. Because the fact is that a year after losing the use of their legs, and a year after winning the lotto, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.

We are terrible at predicting how a future event will affect our happiness.

From field studies to laboratory studies, we see that winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion, passing or not passing a college test, on and on, have far less impact, less intensity and much less duration than people expect them to have. This almost floors me — a recent study showing how major life traumas affect people suggests that if it happened over three months ago, with only a few exceptions, it has no impact whatsoever on your happiness.

Happiness can be synthesized, and synthesized happiness is often better than organic.

Why? Because happiness can be synthesized. Sir Thomas Brown wrote in 1642, “I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.” What kind of remarkable machinery does this guy have in his head?

Well, it turns out it’s precisely the same remarkable machinery that all off us have. Human beings have something that we might think of as a “psychological immune system.” A system of cognitive processes, largely non-conscious cognitive processes, that help them change their views of the world, so that they can feel better about the worlds in which they find themselves. Like Sir Thomas, you have this machine.Unlike Sir Thomas, you seem not to know it.

Let’s go back to November 2012. Remember how you felt after the networks called the election for Obama? And now think back to December 2012. Did you celebrate Christmas? New Year’s?

I’m guessing that between December 2012 and December 2015, you were just about as happy as you were between December 2005 and December 2008.

Don’t make your happiness contingent on an election. It’s not worth it. Glenn Beck will not give away his millions and live in a cave if Trump wins. He’ll go on saying crazy, insane things that ruin people’s days because that’s what Glenn Beck does. People pay him to ruin their days. (Stupid me–ruining people’s days for free.)

Yes, many people expected the next president would be a constitutional conservative. (I hate that phrase and love the concept.) But what’s the worst that could happen?

You think Trump will dissolve Congress and become a dictator? We thought Obama would do that. And, while Obama has overreached his authority as President, so far he’s done nothing that can’t be undone. The only undoable things that have happened were Supreme Court rulings. And only a constitutional amendment can undo those. A change in president won’t make much of a difference.

You think Ted Cruz would not enforce the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling? How would that be different from Obama refusing to enforce immigration laws? Cruz might not prosecute bakers who won’t bake cakes, but he’ll recognize same-sex marriages in the law. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t really believe in the rule of law, does he?

So what’s the worst that could happen with a President Trump? Let’s assume that he’s serious about the few things he’s talked about most frequently:

  • He’ll build a wall and enforce immigration laws
  • He’ll suspend Islamic immigration until we “figure out what’s going on”
  • He’ll rebuild the military
  • He’ll fix the VA
  • He’ll protect gun rights
  • He’ll tear up the Iran nuclear deal and craft a new one that works
  • He’ll demand fair trade practices from China, Mexico, Japan, and other partners
  • He’ll cut individual taxes on most Americans and simplify the tax code
  • He’ll cut corporate rates and repatriate trillions of dollars currently off-shore
  • He’ll repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better

Please tell me if accomplishing those goals would make you happy. Notice I didn’t ask if the list is complete, and I didn’t ask if you think Trump can do it. (He can, but that’s a different matter.) I’m asking you to tell me in the comments if you’d be happy if Trump accomplished all of those things. I know you’ll answer truthfully.

Maybe he won’t champion pro-life legislation, but it sounds to me like he’ll enforce the law on life. And I suspect he’ll sign pro-life legislation if any comes from Congress. A lot like Reagan. He said repeatedly he would defund Planned Parenthood unless they stop performing abortions. There’s no reason to disbelieve him.

He’s also talked about eliminating waste in government. Is that a bad thing?

Sure, I like Cruz’s and Carson’s tax plans better, but I’ll take Trump’s gladly. It’s a big improvement and actually would make it easier to get to Cruz’s later. And Trump told Adam Carolla he likes Cruz’s plan a lot better than the status quo. So if Cruz can get Congress to pass his tax plan, Trump will sign it.

Now think about this: would it be any easier for Cruz to get the flat tax through Congress as President? Kemp-Roth had a team of dedicated members of Congress working for years to get that overhaul through. Years. If Cruz’s plan does not have a coalition to push it now, it won’t when he’s President.

So the chances of enacting Cruz’s tax plan are actually better with Trump in the White House and Cruz working full time in the Senate. No one in Congress can champion Cruz’s plan like Senator Cruz can, right?

If you look at Trump’s life, it’s easy to see him accomplishing most of the goals on his list. I think he can. He really does have a history of getting stuff done when no one else could figure out how.

Further, I think Trump is probably the most likely of the remaining Republican candidates to win in November. I know what the conventional wisdom says, but the conventional wisdom has been completely wrong about Trump since day one.

The fact is, Cruz’s November strategy was tragically flawed. He banked on a groundswell of evangelicals who didn’t vote in 2012. But he was wrong. Evangelicals voted in large number in 2012–more than in 2008. The voters who didn’t vote in 2012 were working Americans–the very people Trump has fired up. Many of them are also evangelical, but they’re not Cruz evangelicals–they’re Reagan Democrats and Ross Perot voters. Those record turnouts in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada were largely owing to Trump, not Cruz. (I wrote extensively on the subject here.)

And Rubio’s strategy is Romney’s strategy warmed-over. With less money. And a less accomplished politician.

If Trump continues to defy conventional expectations through November, he will win in a landslide.

And, again, I ask: with a Republican Congress, how terrible would a President Trump be?

Having read The Art of the Deal, I am confident that Trump is not a globalist and he loves America. He really, really loves America. While I disagree with a number of his positions, some strongly, I truly believe he’d make a much better president than Hillary or Obama. He might cause some face-palm moments for us, but not because of groveling to a tinhorn dictator.

I’m not telling anyone to abandon your favorite candidate right now. I’m saying think critically about what a President Trump would really be like. I can promise you that it won’t be as bad as you think it will be when you’re thinking about it–and it might be a whole lot better.

  • So, what’s the worst that could happen? I’d put nuclear war pretty high on that list. Trump’s arrogance, interacting with Putin’s arrogance, or with Kim Jon Un’s mental instability, could be all it takes. Sure, Reagan was tough, but Trump’s no Reagan.

    I also think Trump would screw up the Supreme Court just as badly as Hillary Clinton. When Trump was musing about Cruz’s ineligibility to run, he cited Lawrence Tribe as the legal mind he trusted. Tribe is the left wing dream of a Supreme Court justice. His only saving grace is that he’s 74.

  • Jim Botts

    If I can’t have Cruz, I’ll settle for Trump, and with a lot more enthusiasm than I had for McCain or Romney.

    Rubio=Bush. If the Bush/Ryan/McConnell GOPe global view is now the definition of “conservatism”, count me out.

    All of these people mad at Trump should be directing their anger at elected “do nothing” republicans that hide and try to gorge themselves at the DC trough.

    Now, if we could only get this level of Trumpers to come out to the polls in mid term elections for another tea party wave of primaries…. Any elected Republican with more than 6 years in DC should be thrown out in a primary election.

    • whennessy

      Thanks, Jim. As you can see, not everyone agrees that it’s okay to state the obvious. You are clearly a critical thinker who doesn’t mind facing the world as it really is. Thank you for that.

  • Tom Shupe

    Bill, you list Trump’s goals as if they will be genuinely pursued. It is risky to believe someone whose new found Conservatism was discovered precisely when it became politically convenient. He has waxed in-eloquently about single payer health care . His campaign hopes with the Tea Party should be dead on arrival with that point alone. He was braggadocios about participating with the K-Street/Wall St. cabal to manipulate the political system for his benefit. That too should make his campaign dead on arrival. The two founding issues for the Tea Party were government run health care and the Wall St. bailout. (I heard you explain it)
    Beck is hyperbolic about Trump, and in general, to be sure. Glen Beck would claim that poisoned purple coolaide would spark the zombie apocalypse when there is no need to exaggerate the effects of poison coolaide. The dangers of Trump do not need to be exaggerated.
    Finally, it was Obama nominees who decided in favor of the “undoable things” you mentioned. I know you realize the next POTUS will determine the future SCOTUS. A nominee that will uphold the Kelo decision, and Trump and his ilk stealing land, is not the same nominee who would likely uphold the 2nd amendment with Heller decision or the Constitution in general.

    • whennessy


      Thank you for the thoughtful response. Lots of great points. One thing you mentioned, though, that Obama’s appointees delivered undoable rulings. Reagan appointed Anthony Kennedy and George W. Bush appointed John Roberts. They were the key votes, not Kegan, not Sotomayor.

    • whennessy

      And I am not supporting Trump. I still intend to vote for Dr. Carson if he’s in the race. If not, I’ll decide then. Cruz most perfectly reflects my views of government. I have doubts about his electability, and I question his judgement because his first hire was Jeff Roe. But I might vote for him anyway.

  • Thank you for putting this forth with mature thought. Kudos!!

  • Rick

    Thanks for the straight-forward pep talk. We all need a reality check now and then. BTW … concerning “The only undoable things that have happened were Supreme Court rulings. And only a constitutional amendment can undo those.” And that can be undone through a Convention of States that is “limited to proposing amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and members of Congress.”
    P.S. I couldn’t get the audio to work on your video.

    • whennessy

      Thanks, Rick. Your words mean a lot. Not everyone thanks me for being honest about what I see happening in this race. But magical thinking has hurt us too many times. Conservatives need face the world as it is and determine to make it better. We can’t pretend the world, or some aspect of it, is exactly as it appears in our dreams and then demand others share the delusion.

  • gregzotta

    “The voters who didn’t vote in 2012 were working Americans’ The people who stayed home and did not vote were the Paulbots, because the Establishment dissed Ron Paul. In my view Ron Paul disqualified himself when he supported Iran getting the bomb, because they are a sovereign nation and who are we to tell them they cannot have the bomb.

  • gregzotta

    Many people, political consultants, the media do not understand the phenomenon that is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a great marketer of himself and his brand. People know him from his successful television show the “Celebrity Apprentice.” Many people are influenced by pictures and videos. So they think they know Trump. Then there were the pictures and videos of the invasion of illegal immigrants coming into the country from the southern border of the United States. They see the pictures and videos of the havoc and chaos occurring with the Muslim invasion of Europe. Trump is saying what the people want and that is he is going to stop it. Trump has called for a stop to the invasion of this country, which needs to happen. I do like the fact that Trump has been stirring it up and taking it to Hussein Obama putting him on the defensive, along with some RINO’s, but I am supporting Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is the best candidate running for president.

  • Scott Evans

    I have always been (and still am) on board Rubio Railways but it seems that the track isn’t fully laid yet… Trump intrigued me when he “trumpeted” his candidacy. It would be awesome to see a natural born leader, lead this nation without giving in to the opposition. I don’t think anyone would want to negotiate a deal with him…no matter what it is. If he doesn’t offer to finish building Rubio’s track, he is Trump Towers above the rest of the field in my opinion.
    Endnote: I know there was a lot of corny bits in this, but in regards to writing, I’m just an apprentice.

    • whennessy

      You must have some Irish in ye. A story you’re telling, but so that the listener must pay special care to hear it. I like it.

    • gregzotta

      Marco Rubio, the lying, baby face SELLOUT who was/is the face of Amnesty wants the people to vote for him because he is the only one who can win the election. Really? Rubio came in 3rd in Iowa, 5th in New Hampshire and basically tied for second in South Carolina. It is clear, the Establishment has now sided with Rubio as their boy and that Rubio is the only one who can win over Killary. Remember the Establishment has not been to successful in picking winners in presidential races. It was Bob Dull who was their pick. Then John McLame and Mitt Romney were the unbeatable and we all know how that turned out. This country does not need another Establishment pick. Rubio was coerced and manipulated by DemonRAT Chuck Schumer and was the Gang of Eight’s FACE of Amnesty. He was manipulated by the DemonRATS in the past, which means he could be manipulated in the future. Rubio’s current position on immigration is a delayed Amnesty. Anyone who supports Amnesty should be disqualified from running for President, because they are admitting they would not abide by their oath of office.

    • gregzotta

      Marco Rubio is an ANCHOR BABY. His mother and father were not American citizens when he was born in America. Do you believe the founders meant to give citizenship/naturalization authority to illegal immigrants? They have been misinterpreting the Constitution on Anchor babies and Congress by statute or amendment should clarify the position. It is because of the misinterpretation that Rubio would be eligible to run for president. However, Rubio was the FACE of Amnesty which should disqualify him from running.

    • gregzotta

      Trey Gowdy said, “Marco is a rock solid conservative and a strong leader we can trust. ”Trey, do you even know what Conservative means? Ted Cruz is a TRUE Conservative and the best candidate running for office. Rubio, on the other hand, is a baby face lying SELLOUT and was/is the face of Amnesty. Here are reasons why not to support Marco Rubio for the Republican candidate for president: On 9/17/15 Marco Rubio was on the Sean Hannity radio show and still supports amnesty for the illegal immigrants in this country. The black lives matter or should they be called black lies, are agitators, being supported by George Soros and his ilk, and now Marco Rubio. Rubio also supports letting in the Syrian migrants/refugees stating that is who we are as a country. He did say they need to be vetted and said it would be difficult to do, because you could not contact the Syrian government to find out about them. What? The Arab Nations should handle the problem. The U.S. should not be taking in any refugees from Syria, because it is more likely than not some of them would be terrorists. It would be an invasion. Now, Rubio has a billionaire supporter who supports Amnesty and will become his puppet. Anyone who supports Amnesty or letting the Muslim “migrants” come into this country should be eliminated from the presidential race. The people need to WAKE up! BTW Trey, what if anything are you going to do about the many Federal law violations Killary Clinton has committed? Why are you not demanding AG Loretta Lynch do her job and prosecute her?

  • Gabe Jones

    You asked if accomplishing there’s goals would make me happy, here are my point-by-point thoughts:

    He’ll build a wall and enforce immigration laws
    -Nope. I don’t like the idea of a wall. Not only keeps people out, but out keeps people in.

    He’ll suspend Islamic immigration until we “figure out what’s going on”
    – No. Too nebulous. Too close for comfort. What’s to stop him from saying the same thing about Catholic/Christian immigrants from the Middle East or any other group he feels threatened by?

    He’ll rebuild the military
    – Okay… Cool. Rebuild to what? The 1980s? The cold war is over. It’s a different world we live in. “Rebuilding” the military isn’t a simple proposition in 2016. Let’s tear it apart and start all over with a more nimble, agile, advanced fighting force.

    He’ll fix the VA
    – Sounds great. Good luck with that.

    He’ll protect gun rights – Great! I don’t believe him, but good on him if he does.

    He’ll tear up the Iran nuclear deal and craft a new one that works – Great.

    He’ll demand fair trade practices from China, Mexico, Japan, and other partners – Again, sounds great, but I don’t ever believe it will happen with Trump because I’m not convinced he’s not a globalist.

    He’ll cut individual taxes on most Americans and simplify the tax code
    – This would make me happy.

    He’ll cut corporate rates and repatriate trillions of dollars currently off-shore
    – As would this.

    He’ll repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better
    – More universal health care? I’m not sure I like the idea.

    I know you specifically said you weren’t asking if Trump could actually accomplish these but just if they would make us happy on face value. I counter that such a question misses the point. Because as you say, happiness is synthesized. So our potential happiness in seeing these goals accomplished would ultimately even out. Does it really matter then what our happiness is? So the question then becomes: can he actually do it? In many cases I don’t think he can, and in some cases if he does, I don’t trust him to do it right. Why? Because he’s a narcissistic megalomaniac. He’s not looking out for the “plebs.” He’s looking out for him. He’ll sell us down river as soon as it suits him. Then how happy will we be?

    • whennessy


      Awesome answers. You put more into your answers than I put into the post 🙂

      Why do you say a narcissist? How did you come up with that diagnosis?

      • Gabe Jones

        It’s late, and typing on my phone isn’t terribly fun, so this says pretty much what I would say:

      • flyovercindy

        Honestly Bill? You don’t see the nearly identical situation we were looking at in early ’08? …except now it’s “our” side that is pushing a NARCISSIST promising hope-and-change – oops, I mean to make-our-country-great. How many then unquestioningly took the word of another candidate who promised solutions to all of their ills? It doesn’t make it right just because this one has an “R” after his name (for the moment).
        I agree with Gabe, it’s a good list, and getting those things accomplished would make us happy. I’m just not convinced, no I’m sure, there are some he just CAN’T DO in a bombastic, Trumpian way, and the way he’ll accomplish others won’t make conservatives happy… I don’t know why I should trust him more or differently than Obama – their past actions belie their current words.
        As for your real or synthesized happiness – there is more to a satisfied soul than simply the “feeling” of happiness. Yes, it’s possible to resign ourselves and find happiness in a situation we cannot change, but there are a lot of us out here not ready to “synthesize” it. We want a change of American hearts and a higher standard to aspire to than a Trump America, and we believe it IS possible.
        You have really disappointed me.

        • whennessy

          You are disappointed because I blog what I’m seeing? You would rather I lie?

          I don’t know that my hypotheses are right. We may never find out. But I’m a blogger, and I’ve given up the practice of supporting what I see as political fantasy. Disappointment seems an odd reaction to a man being honest.

          BTW, have you ever noticed this blog’s tag line? Scroll up to the top. Then tell me how you can be disappointed by a blogger who writes posts consistent with his tag line AND honestly.

          • flyovercindy

            The word I should have used is “disillusioned” – and maybe a “kill the messenger”-kind of disillusioned. I been reading (and sharing & recommending) your posts for a long time, and seldom really disagree with you. I get that humans are an adaptable bunch, and we can, and do, find happiness in ourselves – whatever our situation. I guess I’m a purist though – I’m frustrated that even evangelicals will compromise their principles because of anger. I’m angry too, but looking to Trump as the answer to “fix” things is only transferring our trust from a failed Washington, to someone who may be able to change some “things” but won’t heal our soul.
            I’m frustrated because conservatives with a voice have fallen in line behind Trump, because he can win. I don’t trust Trump, like I didn’t trust Obama, but people are again looking for a “leader” to fix us instead of understanding that we all need to start fixing ourselves. It really may be too late, because most people don’t think they have anything to fix – as long as they are “happy”.

            I honestly do believe that Ted Cruz would help restore America’s goodness, along with the same things Mr. Trump is promising.

            …but who am I to judge? If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it and move on. If I’m right, I’ll synthesized some happiness… I’m just not convinced it’s all going to be OK.

          • Thanks, Cindy. You are not alone.

            If it helps, you said something important: “we all need to start fixing ourselves.” That’s true no matter who’s president. And you might like this article by John O’Sullivan of National Review. You might find Mr. O’Sullivan and me too Pollyanna, but despair won’t fix anything. And just because it’s unlikely that Senator Cruz will win the White House doesn’t mean he won’t be around to help restore America’s goodness. (Although he has some self-fixing to do in that regard, as well.) He will still be in the Senate, and possibly with a president who will sign the bills Congress sends him.