Why Trump Isn’t All Washed Up — A Lesson from Baseball

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/04/14/why-trump-isnt-all-washed-up-a-lesson-from-baseball/

The Washington establishment and the press corps, neither of which liked Donald Trump to begin with, are now preparing to write off his presidency as a failure.

Less than 100 days in, it’s way too early for that. It’s also way too early even for the inevitable wave of suggestions that Mr. Trump could turn things around by bringing in an experienced Washington hand, like, say, David Gergen, or Kenneth Duberstein.

For comparison’s sake, let’s take a quick look at how long it has taken some previous presidents to enact historic legislative achievements.

Consider, say, Social Security, the old-age safety net that is perhaps the most durable legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. FDR signed Social Security into law on August 14, 1935 — more than two years after Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933.

President John Kennedy, elected in 1960, did not even introduce major income-tax-cutting legislation or make a big push for civil rights legislation until 1963. Both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Revenue Act of 1964, the two most significant Kennedy legislative accomplishments, were enacted under President Lyndon Johnson, after Kennedy’s assassination.

President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform into law on August 22, 1996, nearly four years after he had been elected on a promise to “end welfare as we know it.”

President George W. Bush spent nearly his entire second term campaigning for a Social Security reform that would have included private, investable accounts. It never happened. After leaving office, Mr. Bush told interviewers he wished he had focused on an immigration overhaul instead; he didn’t achieve that, either.

President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010, and the Dodd-Frank law overhauling financial regulation on July 21, 2010. Both were more than a year into his presidency, and the effect of both was to cost Mr. Obama’s party the majority control that it had in Congress.

The disadvantage of a long legislative process is that it gives interest groups more time to pack bills with obscure provisions that add complexity and, often, cost.

The advantage of a long legislative process is that sometimes it can prevent half-baked bills — like the recent House ObamaCare quasi-replacement known as the American Health Care Act — from becoming law. Sometimes — not always, but sometimes — bills get better as they work their way through Congress.

It would certainly be possible to devise a governmental set-up that made it easier for an elected leader to rack up quick legislative wins. One can imagine a plan with a unicameral legislature, in which the chief executive and the legislative majority leader were one and the same, and the voters cast ballots not only for a president but for a package of draft legislation that the president promised to enact.

Fortunately, that’s not the plan that the founders of America established in the Constitution.

The difficulty of making laws at the national level means it often makes more sense to tackle problems at the local or state level. That can be for the best, because mistakes there don’t make trouble for the whole country. State and local leaders can better tailor solutions to accommodate local and regional differences.

I’ve got plenty of disagreements with Trump. It’s too early to call his presidency a success, either. But a “failure” narrative because health care legislation foundered, or because a major tax overhaul isn’t going to be done overnight, tells more about the Washington insiders rooting for Trump to fail than about how Trump is really doing. Under the Constitution, it’s not the president’s job to write the laws, anyway.

Trump has shown an impressive ability to up his game over time. He didn’t win the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses; Ted Cruz did. But he won the nomination.

Most good things in life take some time. If Trump’s critics can’t understand this based on history or political theory, maybe a sports metaphor will help. It is, after all, not long into the new baseball season.

In baseball, the winner is the team that wins the World Series. It’s not the team that does the best on Opening Day, or in April, or May, or before the All-Star break. It’s not the team that gets the most runs in the first inning. It’s the team that endures the best over the course of a whole season and that puts it all together in the post-season. There are 162 regular season games.

Sure, it’s nice to get some early wins on the board, just like a pitcher likes to get ahead in the count by throwing strikes. But politics and governing, like baseball, is a long game. Winning, and even just being an intelligent observer, requires patience.


Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of JFK, Conservative.