Will Trump bring out the ghosts of Nixon and Hoover?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank Colum­nist Fol­low Dana Mil­bank on Twit­ter, @Mil­bank.

As a Don­ald Trump vic­tory be­came clear Tues­day night, the ghost of Her­bert Hoover paid a visit to Trump’s elec­tion night party in New York.

In the Fox News cov­er­age play­ing on screens in the ball­room, Megyn Kelly turned to Karl Rove. “It didn’t hap­pen un­der Rea­gan or the Bushes. When was the last time a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent had a Repub­li­can Congress?”

Yes, quite: Repub­li­cans ac­tu­ally had uni­fied con­trol for four years un­der Ge­orge W. Bush, and for two years un­der Dwight Eisen­hower, as Rove amended when I fol­lowed up with him.

But the 1928 com­par­i­son is in­struc­tive. It’s the last time a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent en­joyed any­thing like the ma­jor­ity Trump will have, par­tic­u­larly in the House.

And how did that work out for them?

Hoover took over in a time of gen­eral pros­per­ity but stag­nant wages and vast in­come in­equal­ity. Pop­ulists in Congress pro­posed dra­matic in­creases in tar­iffs to help the strug­gling agri­cul­tural sec­tor, the equiv­a­lent of to­day’s be­lea­guered blue-col­lar work­ers.

The pro­posal di­vided Repub­li­cans in Congress and Hoover be­fore they pro­duced the 1930 Smoot-Haw­ley Tar­iff Act, set­ting off re­tal­i­a­tion, freez­ing in­ter­na­tional trade, con­tribut­ing to the Great De­pres­sion and ac­cel­er­at­ing a ru­inous cy­cle of na­tion­al­ism around the world.

Hoover’s ghost should haunt the GOP right now. A pop­ulist, pro­tec­tion­ist pres­i­dent has come to power at a time of long-de­pressed wages and vast in­equal­ity. He threat­ens to im­ple­ment a 45 per­cent tar­iff against China and 35 per­cent against Mex­ico, and he’s about to col­lide with free-traders and pro-busi­ness in­ter­ests in his own party.

If they jet­ti­son Trump’s agenda and pro­ceed with busi­ness as usual, they risk in­flam­ing Trump’s al­ready fu­ri­ous fol­low­ers. If they do what Trump has promised, there will be chaos as they pur­sue what amounts to a mis­sion im­pos­si­ble: en­act­ing a huge tax cut, mak­ing enor­mous spend­ing in­creases on in­fra­struc­ture and the mil­i­tary and cut­ting the debt in half — all with­out touch­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care.

With uni­fied con­trol, Repub­li­cans now own ev­ery is­sue — health care, the econ­omy, na­tional se­cu­rity — and Democrats, who nar­rowly won the pop­u­lar vote and are sup­ported by exit polls show­ing tepid sup­port for many of Trump’s pol­icy pri­or­i­ties, have lit­tle in­cen­tive to co­op­er­ate.

Some early signs show Trump won’t hes­i­tate to dis­ap­point sup­port­ers.

Drain the swamp? Trump has packed his tran­si­tion team with a who’s who of the K Street lob­by­ing trade, ac­cord­ing to Politico. Among those in charge of staffing the new ad­min­is­tra­tion are peo­ple who have lob­bied for or rep­re­sented Al­tria, Visa, An­them, Coca-Cola, Gen­eral Elec­tric, HSBC, Pfizer, PhRMA, United Air­lines, South­ern Com­pany, Dow Chem­i­cal, Rose­mont Cop­per Com­pany, Boe­ing, Duke En­ergy and Nu­cor.

My col­league Cather­ine Ho re­ports that Trump’s win “is likely to be a boon to the lob­by­ing busi­ness,” as busi­nesses try to coun­ter­act the un­cer­tainty with more lob­by­ists.

The Trump-pro­posed ban on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the coun­try? As the Post’s Jose A. DelReal re­ported, the Trump cam­paign re­moved that pol­icy’s web­page Thurs­day, then re­stored it af­ter the re­porter’s inquiries.

On Thurs­day night, the pres­i­dent-elect tweeted that “pro­fes­sional pro­test­ers, in­cited by the me­dia, are protest­ing. Very un­fair!” Fri­day morn­ing he re­con­sid­ered: “Love the fact that the small groups of pro­test­ers last night have pas­sion for our great coun­try. We will all come to­gether and be proud!”

Trump’s in­ter­nal ten­sion is un­der­stand­able. He can leave sup­port­ers dis­il­lu­sioned, or he can keep his prom­ises — and send us all back to 1928.

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