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Opinion: People are right to fear President Trump

Opinion: People are right to fear President Trump
Donald Trump on election night in New York. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, The Times’ letters editor, and it is Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. If you seek only consoling words after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, stop reading now. Those with the stomachs for more digestion of President-elect Trump’s gut-wrenching victory, read on.

Here’s a look back at the week in Opinion.

Reacting the night Trump appeared to be on his way to upsetting Hillary Clinton and stunning the world by winning the White House, our political op-ed columnist Doyle McManus offered this warning: Get ready for a rough ride, America.

The president-elect made promises he cannot possibly keep and threatened to upend the world order, having pledged on the campaign trail to rip up longstanding trade agreements and reevaluate American alliances with European nations. McManus summed up Trump’s daunting to-do list now that he will soon be the most powerful person in the world:

Begin with the economy. Trump’s first challenge is likely to be a slump in the financial markets; on Election Night, Dow futures plunged as his victory became clear. Can the New York mogul find the words and actions to persuade investors that he’s not the bad news they think he is?

Move on — quickly; he’ll have no choice — to foreign policy. Vladimir Putin may be celebrating, but that’s little comfort. U.S. allies in Europe are worried; will Trump reaffirm our ties with them, which are vital to combating international terrorism, or allow them to deteriorate? China has warned that Trump’s promise to impose sanctions on its economy (for “currency manipulation” that experts say Trump is wrong about) will prompt swift reprisals; will the president-elect tell Beijing he was only kidding?

Last but not least, consoling the American people. Fewer than half of all voters actually chose Trump; will he reach out to those who fear or loathe him? Minorities, including Latinos and African Americans, decisively rebuffed his purported outreach in their direction; does he care?

Trump does have some assets as he approaches a job he has done little to prepare for. He will likely have majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives, giving Republicans control of a one-party government for the first time since 2006. In the hands of a more conventional politician — a Mitt Romney, a Marco Rubio — this would be a golden opportunity to pass legislation to advance conservative goals, including lower taxes and tighter federal budgets.

But Trump is no mainstream Republican. To take just one glaring example: Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ted Cruz have all argued that the only way to rein in the federal budget is by trimming future growth in Social Security and Medicare spending. Trump disagrees, emphatically.

Trump’s fiscal campaign promises simply don’t add up. He’s said he will balance the budget and cut taxes, but expand Social Security and increase military spending. That can’t be done. He’s promised steel workers in the Rust Belt and coal miners in Appalachia that he’ll bring their old jobs back; that’s not likely to happen, either.

Still, some of his agenda can be achieved through legislation. He can repeal Obamacare, President Obama’s health insurance program — and leave the details of what should replace it to Congress. He can almost certainly win funding to deport more undocumented immigrants and build a wall on the southern border— the cost of which, he says, will be reimbursed by the Mexican government. (Mexico says it will do no such thing.)

And many of Trump’s biggest promises on trade, immigration, national security and foreign policy can be achieved through executive action...

He could follow through on his campaign promise to renegotiate the NAFTA trade treaty with Mexico and Canada — and, if the talks went poorly, he could carry out his threat to leave the trade pact. He’s also floated the idea of withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, an action which could set off an international trade war and financial panic.

He could attempt to renegotiate U.S. participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, reducing our military commitments in Europe if the allies don’t spend more on defense.

And, since he says the threat of climate change is a hoax, Trump could keep his pledge to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and undo regulations that reduce U.S. carbon emissions.

The problem with all of those unilateral moves is that they could well cause retaliation by other countries — a factor President Trump won’t be able to control. His early months will be a test of his ability as a crisis manager.

» Click here to read more.

The Times’ editorial board stridently opposed Trump’s candidacy. Now it is coming to grips with his presidency. In the early morning hours Wednesday after the election outcome became clear, an editorial pondered the question, “How did this happen?” Later, the editorial board, still asserting its disapproval of Trump’s agenda, congratulated the president-elect but warned he should not misinterpret his narrow victory as a mandate to implement his sweeping policy proposals. In another editorial, the board wrestled with how Democrats can work with a president whose campaign politics were as toxic as Trump’s.

RIP, Earth’s climate. Forests are withering. Wildfires are raging. The seas are rising. Up until Tuesday, the global community appeared ready to unite and take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sparing us from the worst effects of climate change. But then Americans elected as their president a man who has called climate science a hoax and promised to “cancel” the Paris agreement. He cannot actually do that, notes the editorial board, but he can take the world’s second-largest emitter of global-warming gases and walk away. Let’s hope Trump wakes up to reality on this one. L.A. Times

Surprise, surprise, the out-of-touch plutocrat lost. Political and media elites were gobsmacked by Trump’s victory — but they shouldn’t have been. Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes that Hillary Clinton represented much of what liberals once abhorred and what working-class voters were ready to reject: a wealthy, Wall Street-backed, media-enabled plutocrat who believed her presidency to be inevitable. No wonder the nation elected Trump instead. L.A. Times

Here’s a phrase Clinton knows well: It’s the economy, stupid. Pundits and politicos may have been shocked by Trump’s victory, but economists weren’t. Based on their models, a Trump presidency was virtually assured long before the first ballot was cast, writes economics professor Brad Schiller. He lays out the basic formula: “If the economy has been good, people don't seek out change; they are content with the party in power. On the other hand, if the economy isn't delivering the growth and jobs that people expect, they want a change in leadership — a different party in the White House.” L.A. Times

Journalists should have called Trumpism what it was: white supremacy. Erin Aubry Kaplan, who calls herself an “angry black voter,” notes it wasn’t just whites in the South and rural parts of the Midwest who supported Trump; those in Massachusetts, Vermont and other supposedly liberal bastions were on his side too, and their anxiety over the economy got loads of media attention. Kaplan asks: Where was the coverage of black anxiety? L.A. Times

No, Californians, you don’t get to secede or move to Canada. The Times editorial board has a message for angry California voters: “Friends and neighbors, hand back the #Calexit petitions. Your state will not be seceding, and you don’t want it to. The nation belongs to you at least as much as it belongs to any of those red states. You will not surrender it.” L.A. Times

And why would Angelenos leave when they voted for so much great stuff on Tuesday? Here in L.A., the editorial board notes, voters approved the construction of new housing for the homeless, funds to build and maintain parks and, perhaps most dramatically, a plan to massively build out the local transportation infrastructure — rail lines, freeways, bike lanes and all. The lesson: “When voters are given well-thought-out and credible opportunities to make a meaningful difference in their communities — such as road and transit improvements, more and better parks, housing for the homeless and mentally ill — they will support higher taxes. That message should be taken to heart in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.” L.A. Times

Reach me: paul.thornton@latimes.com

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