Are you so unimpressed with our presidential candidates? Thinking about voting for Jill “who knows about vaccines” Stein, or Gary “what is Aleppo” Johnson instead? “It’s so hard to choose between two equally bad options!” you sigh. “Might as well go with a third party, that makes me feel nice.”
This reaction, my pals, is absolutely insane. The latest issue of the New Yorker features an Evan Osnos deep dive into the first days of a Donald Trump presidency, and it’s not really hyperbole to suggest that if Trump wins, it could ruin your life and/or the world.
This isn’t a particularly groundbreaking thought, if you’ve been paying attention at all, but it’s unnerving to have it laid out like this: Osnos spoke to several dozen people, including campaign advisors, associates, Republican officials, economists, legal scholars, and politicians from other countries, pulling together a vision of Trump’s first term that is broadly terrifying, and not only in a partisan sense (although yes, his administration would likely work very hard to reverse most of Obama’s achievements, and his effect on the Supreme Court would be potentially catastrophic).
In what Trump aides are calling the “First Day Project”, the New Yorker reports:
He can renounce the Paris Agreement on greenhouse-gas emissions, much as George W. Bush, in 2002, “unsigned” American support for the International Criminal Court. He can re-start exploration of the Keystone pipeline, suspend the Syrian refugee program, and direct the Commerce Department to bring trade cases against China. Or, to loosen restrictions on gun purchases, he can relax background checks.
But those are secondary issues; whatever else Trump would do on January 20th, he would begin with a step (“my first hour in office”) to fulfill his central promise of radical change in American immigration.
Osnos projects that a lot of the Trump promises generally considered too radical to rationally anticipate are in fact things that he could actually do, in some way or another—from banning Muslims (if the courts don’t allow it, an advisor says, “That’s fine—he can ban anybody from Egypt, from Syria, from Libya, from Saudi Arabia”) to building the Wall (aides believe he “has to try,” although if it passed through Congress, Osnos writes that the $25 billion project “would end up as a small, symbolic extension of the federally financed border fence that is already in place.”) to deporting 5 million people.
More on that:
Julie Myers Wood, who headed Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Bush Administration, told me that she is appalled by parts of Trump’s immigration plan and cautioned critics not to assume that it is impossible. “It’s not as binary as some people suggest,” she said. “You could think of some very outside-the-box options.” A President Trump could permit ICE officers to get access to I.R.S. files that contain home addresses. (Undocumented immigrants who pay taxes often list real addresses, in order to receive tax-refund checks.) He could invoke provision 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, in order to detail thousands of local and state agents and police officers to the deportation effort. “You’d put people on a train,” she said. “Again, I’m not recommending this. You could have a cruise ship.”
Other outcomes of a Trump presidency could include nuclear proliferation, a near-immediate recession, the destabilization of global financial markets, and an escalating series of foreign policy disasters (possibly stemming from extreme conflicts of interest) eventually resulting in a power vacuum that could literally burn down the post-Cold War world order—and not in a good way, Susan Sarandon! A taste of future diplomatic relations:
According to Bruce G. Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, Trump encountered a U.S. nuclear-arms negotiator at a reception in 1990 and offered advice on how to cut a “terrific” deal with a Soviet counterpart. Trump told him to arrive late, stand over the Soviet negotiator, stick his finger in his chest, and say, “Fuck you!” Recently, a former Republican White House official whom Trump has called on for his insights told me, “Honestly, the problem with Donald is he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”
And those “checks and balances” you speak of? Well:
“These checks are not gone completely, but they’re much weaker than I think most people assume,” Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said. “Congress has delegated a great deal of power to the President, Presidents have claimed power under the Constitution, and Congress has acquiesced.” The courts, Posner added, are slow.