3 lessons from Amer­ica’s first year with­out a real pres­i­dent

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - BY ROBERT RE­ICH Robert Re­ich was sec­re­tary of La­bor un­der Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

It seems like for­ever, but it was just one year ago that Don­ald Trump was elected pres­i­dent. What have we learned?

1. The first big thing we’ve learned is that Trump is not re­ally the pres­i­dent of the United States — be­cause he’s not govern­ing.

A pres­i­dent who’s govern­ing doesn’t blast his at­tor­ney gen­eral for do­ing his duty and re­cus­ing him­self from an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pres­i­dent.

A pres­i­dent who’s govern­ing doesn’t leave empty the top ech­e­lons of de­part­ments and agen­cies.

He doesn’t pub­licly tell his sec­re­tary of state he’s wast­ing time try­ing to open re­la­tions with North Korea. He would al­ready know and ap­prove of what his sec­re­tary of state was do­ing.

He doesn’t fire half his key White House staff in the first nine months, cre­at­ing chaos.

A pres­i­dent who is govern­ing works with his Cabi­net and staff to de­velop pol­icy. He doesn’t just tweet new pub­lic pol­icy out of the blue — for ex­am­ple, that trans­gen­der peo­ple can’t serve in the mil­i­tary. His sec­re­tary of de­fense is likely to have some thoughts on the mat­ter — and if not con­sulted might de­cide to ig­nore the tweet.

He doesn’t just punt to Congress hard de­ci­sions — as he did with the Iran nu­clear deal, in­sur­ance sub­si­dies un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, and de­tails of his tax plan.

In­stead of govern­ing, Don­ald Trump has been in­sult­ing, throw­ing tantrums and get­ting even:

Equat­ing white su­prem­a­cists with peo­ple who protest against them. Ques­tion­ing the pa­tri­o­tism of NFL play­ers who are peace­fully protest­ing po­lice vi­o­lence and racism.

Mak­ing nasty re­marks about jour­nal­ists, about his pre­de­ces­sor as pres­i­dent, his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent in the last elec­tion, na­tional he­roes like Rep. John Lewis and Sen. John McCain.

Or he’s busy ly­ing and then cov­er­ing up the lies. Claim­ing he would have won the pop­u­lar vote if mil­lions hadn’t voted fraud­u­lently for his op­po­nent — with­out a shred of ev­i­dence to sup­port his claim.

Or fir­ing the head of the FBI who wouldn’t prom­ise to be more loyal to him than to the Amer­i­can pub­lic.

A pres­i­dent’s job is to gov­ern. Trump doesn’t know how to gov­ern, or ap­par­ently doesn’t care. So, log­i­cally, he’s not pres­i­dent.

2. The sec­ond thing we’ve learned is that Trump’s in­flu­ence is wan­ing.

One year in, Trump is the least pop­u­lar pres­i­dent in his­tory, with only 37 per­cent of Amer­i­cans be­hind him. Most Repub­li­cans still ap­prove of him, but that may not be for long.

He couldn’t get his pick elected in a Se­nate pri­mary in Alabama, a state bulging with Trump vot­ers.

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors re­fused to go along with his re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act. And they’re tak­ing in­creased in­ter­est in Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

Busi­ness lead­ers de­serted him over his re­marks over Char­lottesville. They va­cated his busi­ness ad­vi­sory coun­cils.

NFL own­ers have turned on him over his re­marks about play­ers.

3. The third big thing we’ve learned is where the govern­ing of the coun­try is ac­tu­ally oc­cur- ring.

Much is be­ing done by lob­by­ists for big busi­ness, who swarm over the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion like honey bees on hol­ly­hocks.

But the real lead­er­ship of Amer­ica is com­ing from out­side the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Lead­er­ship on the en­vi­ron­ment is now com­ing from Cal­i­for­nia — whose rules ev­ery au­tomaker and many other cor­po­ra­tions have to meet in or­der to sell in a state that’s home to one out of eight Amer­i­cans.

Lead­er­ship on civil rights is com­ing from the fed­eral courts, which have struck down three dif­fer­ent ver­sions of Trump’s travel ban, told states their voter ID laws are un­con­sti­tu­tional and pushed po­lice de­part­ments to stop pro­fil­ing and ha­rass­ing mi­nori­ties.

Lead­er­ship on the econ­omy is com­ing from the Fed­eral Re­serve Board, whose de­ci­sions on in­ter­est rates are more im­por­tant than ever now that the coun­try lacks a fis­cal pol­icy guided by the White House.

Most of the rest of lead­er­ship in Amer­ica is now com­ing from the grass roots — from peo­ple all over the coun­try who are de­ter­mined to re­claim our democ­racy and make the econ­omy work for the many rather than the few.

They stopped Congress from re­peal­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

They’re fight­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos’ plan to spend tax­payer money on for- profit schools and col­leges that cheat their stu­dents.

They’re fight­ing EPA direc­tor Scott Pruitt’s cru­sade against cli­mate science.

They’re fight­ing against the big­gest tax cut for the wealthy in Amer­i­can his­tory — that will be paid for by dra­co­nian cuts in ser­vices and dan­ger­ous lev­els of fed­eral debt.

They’re fight­ing against the big­otry, racism, and xeno­pho­bia that Trump has un­leashed.

And they’re fight­ing for a Congress that, start­ing with next year’s midterm elec­tions, will re­verse ev­ery­thing Trump is do­ing to Amer­ica.

But their most im­por­tant ef­fort — your ef­fort, our ef­fort — is not just re­sist­ing Trump. It’s lay­ing the ground­work for a new pol­i­tics in Amer­ica, a new era of de­cency and so­cial jus­tice, a re­asser­tion of the com­mon good.

Mil­lions are al­ready mo­bi­liz­ing and or­ga­niz­ing. It’s the one good thing that’s hap­pened since Elec­tion Day last year — the sil­ver lin­ing on the dark Trump cloud.

If you’re not yet part of it, join up.

One year in, Trump is the least pop­u­lar pres­i­dent in his­tory, with only 37 per­cent of Amer­i­cans be­hind him.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump


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