Dear President-Elect Trump:
The media and punditocracy are full of speculation about your “100 day” program. It sounds like you and your team might actually be preparing for one. Don’t do it. Please.
I know, every new president wants to repeat Franklin Roosevelt’s hundred days: a flurry of new legislation, executive orders and agencies, dramatically changing the country (for better or worse) and cementing his (or her, someday) place in history.
It’s not the time, and you’re not that president. You can only achieve a similar place in history with the opposite course.
It’s not 1932. We’re not in a national political and economic emergency. Our country does not need a massive dose of new laws, new regulations, new policies, and new agencies. It has lots of laws, regulations, and agencies that aren’t working.
The task for our time is to fix the dysfunction, soothe the polarization, get the sensible compromises passed, and clean up the administration of government. Tax reform. Regulatory reform. Entitlement reform. Immigration reform. Criminal-justice reform. Fix health insurance. Fix Dodd-Frank. There are straightforward, bipartisan workable if not perfect answers to most of these long-standing messes that have been torpedoed by absolutists on one side or another. Read the Paul Ryan “better way” plan, detailed and prepackaged. If you really think you can do better, work from that basis. You don’t have to write a word of new proposals yourself. The more something is someone else’s idea, the easier it is to get it passed.
Find a deal. Get it done. Quietly, behind the scenes. Let your opponents in both parties have a face-saving way to help you. Don’t try to shove things down people’s throats, either legislators or voters. That’s what great politicians do.
Clean up the administration. Appoint good people. Find a truce with Democrats to end the war on appointments that started with Bork. Get running the country out of the intense politics of the White House and back to the cabinet agencies. Clean up the executive orders and the politicized out of control regulatory agencies.
We need peace on court appointments, and to rein in the politicized regulatory state. Appoint a libertarian, not a social conservative. Let Wickard V. Filburn (the case in which a man was prosecuted for growing wheat on his own land to make his own bread, without a Federal wheat marketing order — found legal as control of interstate commerce) and Chevron be your litmus test, not Roe V. Wade.
None of this is easy, none of this is 100-day stuff, and none of this is accomplished well in the limelight of the press, accompanied by constant spin. Finding a solid, politically acceptable fix to Obamacare will take months, and months more to get a solid bipartisan durable majority to pass it. You cannot ram it down Democrats’ throats as they rammed the original down Republicans’. Finding a solid, politically acceptable fix to Dodd-Frank will take similar amounts of time. You have four years, not 100 days. Your job is to soothe, to heal, to get people to the table, to get government working again. Spend your hundred days just getting a good team together and quietly meeting legislators and our friends abroad.
Remember, most of Roosevelt’s initiatives proved more damaging then helpful, were thrown out by courts, or had to be substantially reworked. He operated in a state of cheerful experimentation, happy to throw whatever he could at the problem to see what stuck. You do not have that luxury. Remember your predecessor’s 100 days — Stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank. That didn’t work out so well, did it? 100 day legislation never does.
You have had a wonderful three days, saying healing things right and left. Keep that up. Remind people that you were elected to clean up the government, not to render individual intolerance newly acceptable.
Go on a tour. Start with our friends, not on big public negotiations with our enemies. Quietly, with no public statement, no spin doctors, no media, go reassure our allies that America stands with her friends, means what she says, and remains the leader of the free world. No more lines in the sand, constant spin, empty threats, empty guarantees, and needless public insults. No more talk about what we will not do. No more doubting our commitments. Speak softly, carry a big stick, and stop promising never to use it.
Play a lot of golf. Throw some good parties. If the media are lampooning you as the do-nothing president, you’re doing a great job. Eisenhower played this trick well. Throw away your twitter account. Look presidential, and let people project on you their hopes, not read in your unguarded statements their darkest fears.
If you just got that done—mind the store; get the things the government is already trying to do to work with modest competence, with not one new Presidential initiative—the economy would take off like a rocket, and our polarization would fade. You would go down in history as the country’s great healer. Future presidents would emulate your first term, not Roosevelt’s. This is the crying need in our time. By being an outsider, not beholden to particular ideologies or a political base, you are in fact the right person to do it.
What about your campaign promises? Keep one thing in mind: you were not elected for your policies! Yes, you talked about immigration and trade on the campaign trail, and you paid some lip service to social issues. But we all know you were not the policy-wonk candidate. That is now a huge advantage. If anyone can pivot on a dime, it’s you. You were not elected to shove a different set of policies down your opponents’ throats, by any means.
You were elected because you are not Hillary Clinton. You were elected in revulsion at the corruption, the hypocrisy, the ram-it-down-their-throats nanny-state regulations, and their increasing politicization. You were elected to fix the process
, dysfunction, and incompetence of government. You were elected because people are sick of working at Wal-mart, can’t get a loan, and their health insurance premium just skyrocketed as they found out there isn’t a doctor in 300 miles that will take it. You were elected because people want a prosperous economy with opportunity for them. They don’t really care how you get it.
Your followers want rule of law, and competent administration. They do not want a laundry list of new policies, programs, and regulations. They do not want a 100 days.
Read the polls. You are now president of all the country, and the vast majority of that country — even the majority of your supporters — does not want to waste this moment on draconian trade, immigration, and social issues.
On the other hand, if you try the 100 days that I start to hear percolating out from the media — disruptive anti-immigrant steps, sure to generate horrible stories in the news, big moves against trade, and hard line on social issues including abortion, gay marriage and other gender rights — you will simply and needlessly tear the country apart.
And you will pave the way for President Elizabeth Warren. This is the one chance in your and my lifetimes to put a stake in the heart of politicized nanny-state progressivism. Its corruption and hypocrisy are exposed. You have one chance to replace it with a socially tolerant, pro-growth, pro-opportunity agenda, and to make it work. There will be no second chance. If you tear the country apart by deporting immigrants, with the New York Times and NPR covering every destroyed family, and by starting a hopeless campaign against abortion, gay marriage, or other social issues, you will simply feed their propaganda machine.
There is no 100 days in the constitution. Your job is only to faithfully execute the law, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Period. That would be plenty! The country would be happy with modest competence. We do not need a flurry of new, half-baked initiatives. Nor does your eventual reputation as president.
Let this 100 day tradition die, and bury it!