Even before Donald Trump takes the oath of office on 20 January next year, he has already made the history books. In the 240 years of our Republic, not one person has ever been elected to the presidency without having served in public office or as a general of the Army. On election day, the American people picked one of the best-known businessmen in the nation to become its 45th president.
This news completely flummoxed the media and political establishment. On election night at about 5pm Eastern time, I received a call from one of the top political guns in the country. He told me the exit poll data and other tracking numbers were showing a Hillary win of 320 to 330 electoral votes. Practically every pollster in the nation had a similar opinion. They were almost all wrong.
Shakespeare has this frequently-quoted line about killing all the lawyers, but I think we should just simply say: ‘Kill the political experts’. That’s the remarkable thing about Donald Trump’s success: he relied on few political consultants and little polling. Trump never believed in experts. As he said to the consternation of some in the media, he thought he had a pretty good brain himself. They laughed at him, but it turned out to be quite true.
In some ways he’s like the Warren Buffett of politics. Buffett remarked that he never understood why people that drive Rolls-Royces seek stock advice from people on Wall Street who take the subway to work every day.
Here are my takeaways on a Trump presidency:
1. Pragmatism. Donald Trump is not an ideologue. He believes in ideas, but only if they work. He primarily wants results. Expect opening moves that show he will have a sensible approach to governing. Don’t expect massive deportations or any blanket Muslim ban. Do expect quick deportations of illegal alien criminals and much more scrutiny of individuals coming from terrorist countries.
2. A Policy President. Some presidents enjoy the managerial aspects of the job and they usually end up as disasters. Think Jimmy Carter. Trump will be much more Reaganesque in his approach, setting broad policies for his administration, but focusing his talents on selling those programs to Congress and the public.
3. Bipartisan. We just went through one of the most bitter elections in history. Trump’s inclination is to be bipartisan. Remember, like Reagan, he was a Democrat most of his life. On a personal level many Democrats in the House and Senate will tell you that they like Trump. Trump is a deal guy, and he will work to bring a divided Congress together. Expect a major fix on Obamacare but not a full repeal. Trump will keep blanket health coverage for catastrophic care, but he will reduce costly mandates.
4. Success. Trump has been a winner all his life, and he likes to win. Losing is not an option for him. I think he will be working overdrive to make some very big accomplishments. Expect things like a massive infrastructure bill and major tax cuts for businesses and individuals.
5. The Court. Trump realises this is the litmus test issue for his most conservative supporters. Expect his first two appointments to be fairly or strongly conservative. Ed Meese, who played a key role in Reagan’s appointees, will no doubt play a key role here.
6. Foreign Policy Reset. This is the area where I think Trump will find the most friction, both from his conservative base and establishment policy thinkers as well as State Department insiders. Trump wants to dramatically shift US policy on trade and security matters, such as Nato. He wants better relations with Russia. For the moment, Putin is friendly to Trump, but he will eventually overreach.
7. People’s President. On election night Trump talked about representing the forgotten people in America. He sees himself as one of those people, even though he is a billionaire. My expectation is that he will be the most accessible president in modern times. He will continue holding rallies, forums, and constantly pressing the flesh. He loves interacting with people. He has been an incredibly successful entertainer, and the public part of politics is a key driver for him.
Still, it won’t be all roses. Trump’s biggest challenge will be recruiting and appointing A-level talent to fill out his administration. This will take time. His first appointments will be critical for his success. For many years I would tell the president-elect that he had already won the ‘triple crown’ of American life.
No other American could say that they were at the pinnacle of the business, entertainment, and political worlds. No one else. Now I just need to add one qualification to that: the ‘very pinnacle’ of politics across the whole planet.
Christopher Ruddy is CEO and editor of Newsmax Media Inc.