This Week
Some Guesses for The Year Ahead

   The beginning of the new year is traditionally a time for predicting what’s ahead.  The Common~Conversation will follow this tradition, and invites readers to submit predictions of their own for publication.

   A lot of the predictions relate to a question that The Common~Conversation has been hearing a lot as it reports from Europe for the next week and a half:  What will Trump do and what will happen in America?   Here are some guesses.

   1.  First, look for California and other “blue” states to go their own way on a wide range of issues, from environment and climate change to civil liberties, health care, labor laws, immigration, and other areas where the federal government is likely to step back or take a hard turn to the right.  On climate change and environmental protection, California has led the nation in the past and will lead again.  For more on what to expect, read what California Gov. Jerry Brown told the NY Times last week.

   2.  As vacancies are filled, and the U.S. Supreme Court tilts farther to the right, blue states can and will weigh in.  Most federal constitutional rights can, and many will, be adopted at the state level by state supreme courts and legislatures in blue states.  It has happened before, in California, New York, Massachusetts and other states.  It will happen again.

   3.  Even if Trump gets the Cabinet he wants (a few of those nominations will face real opposition, but most will be rubber stamped), radical change will not come as the right wants and the left fears.  Think of any large organization when new managers, without previous relevant experience, are suddenly put in charge, on top of thousands of people.  Look for learning curves, stumbles, missteps, changes of direction.  Now add this to the mix:  thousands of career staff who can’t easily be fired because of civil service protection.  Whatever happens, it won’t be reruns of The Apprentice (no, you’re not fired) for the majority of government workers. 

   Best guess:  most of the career civil service staff will lay low until the dust settles and it becomes clearer which way the wind will blow.  Some will go along to get along.  Some will work quietly to undermine the new administration and slow down the undoing of their lives’ work.  Some will go public.  Others will provide an interesting stream of leaks to the media.  Or to Edward Snowden.  Lawsuits will throw additional sand in the gears. 

   4.  Every administration eventually overreaches.  For several reasons, this one is at particular risk of overreaching, early, often, and in a big way. 

   First, of course, is the personality of the guy on top:  a bully with “executive” (read:  authoritarian) propensities, used to getting his way.  Second, this is a crowd that claims to have a “mandate” after losing the national popular vote by about three million votes.  Third, the high-level nominees to date include a good number of radical extremists pushing to reverse decades of consensus and tear down programs and protections that benefit large constituencies.  "Reform” Medicare?  Tell the retirees in Florida.  Privatization didn’t go well the last time an administration tried  



and that was an administration coming off an election it actually won, both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College. 

   Already, growing numbers of people who voted for Trump are looking at his Cabinet of billionaires and extremists and saying “This is not what I voted for.”  Put aside the irresponsibility of voting for a candidate judged “unfit” by the most credible people in his own party, they are right.  The unemployed white working class of the Midwest was voting for jobs not carcinogenic air and water or an end to their social safety net.  Floridians whose communities already flood at high tide weren’t voting for more rapid sea level rise and the retirees of Florida weren’t voting for the end of Medicare as they know it. 

   The election may have been a vote for change, but the Tea Party wasn’t on the ballot and it wasn’t a referendum on the fantasy wish-list of the knee-jerk anti-government ideologues of the Tea Party and the radical right.  This is a minority government that lost the national popular vote by millions of votes.  It doesn’t have the mandate that Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway has bravely pretended, and tweats and tax cuts for the top tenth of one percent won’t create one.

   Will the new administration and Congress be smart and play to the middle?  No.  Will they rush at the chance to do things they could only dream of doing for the last 30 years?  Probably.  Will the pendulum swing?  Watch the polls.

   5.  The Trump Foundation’s past wheelings and dealings will become an early scandal, but people who don’t already care won’t care.  The same will be true of every other shady Trump practice that was reported or suspected during the campaign.  People already know the broad strokes – or think they know, and those who voted for him voted for him anyway.  Knowing more details won’t move the needle.  But if an ambitious blue-state prosecutor AG finds a way past the obstacles to give any of the groped women their day in court, President-in-Waiting Pence may quietly start rehearsing his first State of the Union address.

   6.  Climate change deniers may head federal agencies, but the “smart money” knows better.  China has announced its continued commitment to carbon emission control, regardless of what the U.S. does.  The insurance industry, in the U.S. and around the world, will do the risk analysis of coastal real estate and storm damage based on real science.  U.S. military planners will run scenarios on the same basis.  (Let’s hope they do, anyway.)  Longer term, beyond 2017, states and cities that see the water rising will continue to act, but it will be a losing battle.  The smart money in real estate will get out while it still can, and regular homeowners will get soaked, literally and figuratively.  Mar-a-Lago will quietly be syndicated out to investors, or will make plans for a new theme park under the name Trump Underwater World.  (OK, maybe not that last one.)

   7.  The movement to replace or reform the Electoral College will gather steam.  Again, California will lead.  California will call on other states to join the interstate national popular vote compact.  A citizen’s initiative will be filed in California calling for new movement on the issue.  But wait, those last two are not predictions.  A resolution already has passed in California, and an initiative was filed 10 days ago -- by the Publisher of The Common~Conversation.

     Rod J. Howard, Publisher
     From Europe, January 2, 2017