Views » December 30, 2016
Donald Trump’s Plans Are Incredibly Unpopular
The president-elect is missing a mandate in more ways than one.
On Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, Donald Trump claimed in a tweet that his 290 electoral votes constituted a “landslide” and, falsely, that he had “won the popular vote,” because Hillary’s margin (over 2.6 million and counting) was due to those who had “voted illegally.” To say this claim is “baseless,” as the New York Times did, is yet another overly polite media understatement about a serial liar.
Miffed that millions regard his election as illegitimate, and throwing a tantrum over the recount efforts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Trump is trying to manufacture what he desperately desires and does not have: a mandate. Indeed what Trump has is an anti-mandate, something progressives need to reiterate as we gear up for the long months and years of resistance. Given his whopper flip-flops since the election—notably the switch from “lock her up” to “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons” and from that big, beautiful wall to “some fencing”—he seemed to sense this, however primitively.
Trump has an anti-mandate on climate change. He referred to it as “a hoax.” But 64 percent of Americans say they worry a “great deal” or “fair amount” about climate change, and nearly 6 in 10 believe the effects have begun, according to Gallup. Trump pledged to “cancel” U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement; one survey shows 71 percent of Americans support the deal.
On LGBTQ rights, Trump, his rabidly homophobic Vice President-elect Mike Pence and equally homophobic domestic policy adviser Ken Blackwell also have an anti-mandate. Trump opposes marriage equality, while 55 percent of Americans in a May 2016 Pew poll supported it. Gallup reports that nearly 70 percent agree “gay or lesbian relationships between consenting adults” should be legal, providing an anti-mandate for Pence's and Blackwell’s belief that homosexuality is a sin and that gay people can and should be “rehabilitated.”
Trump also has an anti-mandate for his promise to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who vow to overturn Roe v. Wade. Fifty-six percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Trump has an anti-mandate to try to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. According to Gallup, two-thirds of Americans favor a government program that would allow those “living illegally” in the country to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Even half of Republicans support this, with only 31 percent want- ing to see all undocumented immigrants deported. Unlike Trump’s assertion that Mexican (and presumably other) immigrants are “rapists” and drug dealers, millions of Americans know undocumented immigrants who work their butts off, support their families and love this country.
Trump has an anti-mandate to further cut taxes for the rich and corporations. Sixty-one percent of Americans say upper-income people pay too little in taxes. Even when asked about using the tax code to “re-distribute wealth” as opposed to, say, “rebuild infrastructure”—52 percent agree that the wealthy should pay more.
Where Trump may indeed have a mandate is job creation. Of course, his promises of bringing back jobs in coal country, for example, are patently false, given that coal is being overtaken by cheaper natural gas. More doable is his promise to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, which would create thousands of new jobs and is long overdue. But here, he would hardly have a mandate from the fiscal-hawk Republican Congress, as they blocked an investment package in 2009 and another proposal by Bernie Sanders in 2015 to allocate $478 billion for infrastructure, which would have been funded by closing corporate tax loopholes. But then, maybe our fat-cat-in-chief will scrap the investment plan and just turn our highways, bridges and airports over to corporate America.
Trump’s initial post-election recanting—oh, maybe he’ll have an “open mind” about climate change, and, who knew, torture may not work—was supposed to make us feel that he is not the ideological zealot we saw on the campaign trail. Let’s not buy it, especially in the wake of his red-meat Cincinnati “thank you” speech, which revived “the wall,” attacked the “extremely dishonest press” and stoked chants of “lock her up.” As we mobilize to contribute to and work for a host of progressive organizations, let’s keep the mantra going: anti-mandate, anti-mandate.
Susan J. Douglas
Susan J. Douglas is a professor of communications at the University of Michigan and an In These Times columnist. Her latest book is Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work is Done (2010).