America’s system of political checks and balances may vanish in the first 100 days of a Donald Trump presidency and Republican-run Congress. Facing no restraints other than protests they can ignore, Republicans driven by far right-wing ideologies, partisan score-settling and fealty to corporate America may seek to erase all traces of the Obama years and reset the political and judicial stage for years to come.
It’s not just Trump’s draconian campaign pledges that stand to be initiated or imposed. House tea partiers who have been obstructing and investigating the Obama administration for years and Senate Republican leaders who put their party’s interests before the nation by blocking jobs bills, infrastructure bills and Supreme Court nominees, now feel vindicated.
Let’s go through 16 worst-case scenarios that could mark Trump’s first 100 days.
1. Special prosecutor targets Hillary Clinton. This goes beyond the chants of “lock her up” at Trump rallies. During the debates, Trump said that Hillary Clinton deserved to be in jail, and many House Republicans were fuming that the FBI announced her use of a private email server didn’t warrant a Justice Department prosecution. The House, and the U.S. attorney general, both have the power to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate any government officials for misconduct in office. Will they?
2. Scalia clone to Supreme Court. Right after Trump is sworn in, you can expect him to name a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court’s most activist right-winger, who died last February. The Senate will confirm that choice quickly, ignoring Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Other justices—two are now in their 80s—may retire, allowing Trump to create a new right-wing majority for decades to come.
3. Scuttle international treaties. Trump said he would repeal and renegotiate trade pacts, withdraw from the Paris climate change accord and cancel the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran. It remains to be seen which of those come first, but some symbolic or substantive action is likely, even if it imposes new import tariffs. Whether that sparks a trade war that raises consumer prices is not going to be a consideration.
4. Climate change denial actions. Beyond pulling out of the Paris accords, Trump could repeal President Obama’s executive orders to cut carbon pollution, start the process of repealing EPA air quality standards and cut subsidies for solar power and alternative energy generation. He’s also likely to fast-track approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and try to revive coal mines.
5. Roll the clock back on abortion. This goes beyond appointing anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court. The Republican Party platform includes Congress proposing and sending to the states a federal constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion rights. Congress will eliminate any subsidies for Planned Parenthood and may resurrect restrictions on supporting family planning abroad, and also may impose new sex education requirements for public schools.
6. Sign a law repealing Obamacare. The Republican contempt for all-things-Obama may result in repealing major sections of a law that’s brought health coverage, however imperfect, to more than 17 million people. (The entire law can’t be repealed because the GOP doesn’t have a 60-seat Senate majority.) Trump will be under tremendous partisan pressure to sign it, even if the GOP has no Plan B. This may spark the first big backlash he’ll face as president.
7. Repeal Obama’s immigration orders. Trump could revoke Obama’s executive orders on immigration, which suspended deportation of 4 million undocumented parents of children who are U.S. citizens because they were born here. That may be the start of what could become an unprecedented mass arrest, incarceration and deportation treadmill promised in the campaign.
8. Start building a Mexico border wall. The call for a border wall and deporting millions were two of Trump’s most infamous rallying cries. In his brief victory speech, Trump said he wants to start with a big infrastructure package that could include the wall.
9. Normalize bullying and hate crimes. Over the course of the campaign, there has been a precipitous rise in hate crimes against people of color and other minority groups. We have seen an increase in the number of hate groups in recent years, and with Trump’s stoking of white racial resentments during the campaign, we may now see those numbers grow.
10. Repeal other Obama executive orders. The Republican Party platform calls for repealing executive branch policies that enforce voting rights, healthcare programs, land-use decisions, education curricula, and school restroom policies (for trans people). Trump is also likely to repeal federal policies expanding family leave, labor rights, overtime pay, etc. The GOP has said it will draft orders rescinding all policies that are not enumerated under the Constitution.
11. Pre-empt the pot laws passed by states. Trump’s promise to restore “law and order” may begin by pleasing the FBI and cracking down on states where voters have legalized marijuana. Other attempts to address racism in the justice system or prison sentencing policies or broader criminal justice policy reform may be scuttled, as Trump says police can do no wrong.
12. Loosen gun controls nationwide. Trump and the GOP platform want to expand gun rights. The platform calls for carrying a concealed weapon to be legal in all 50 states, and opposes state laws restricting military-style assault rifles and limiting the size of ammunition-carrying magazines. Trump campaigned saying he would allow guns in playgrounds and schools, and he supports the National Rifle Association’s idea of arming and training teachers and hiring more gun-carrying guards for schools.
13. Roll back consumer protections. The GOP Congress is likely to roll back new consumer protections, such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform passed in 2010 and the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was set up by Elizabeth Warren before she was elected a Massachusetts senator, and has gone after sectors like the payday loan industry. House Republicans have talked about shutting down the new agency and replacing it with a toothless commission.
14. Start the privatization bandwagon. This goes beyond the GOP platform’s call to sell Amtrak, the federal passenger railway. Trump’s idea of student loan reform is to end federal loans and hand that over to private banks. He also wants to expand charter schools and other K-12 education that are publicly funded but privately run. And Vice President-elect Tim Pence has been a big proponent of investing some Social Security trust funds on Wall Street.
15. Cut taxes, increase military spending. Trump embraced Ronald Reagan’s two-part formula from the 1980s that sent the federal debt through the roof: cutting taxes, especially for high earners, which lowered federal revenues, and vastly increasing Pentagon spending. Trump has repeatedly said he would do both, creating the spectacle of an economic trainwreck that future presidents and Congresses will have to clear up.
16. Bomb ISIS and increase foreign wars. Trump has said he wants to bomb ISIS, increase the use of torture or other tactics that are considered war crimes under international law, and show foreign adversaries that he means business. Trump clearly relishes his strongman posturing, even though he has never served in the military or fought in a war, so it may be a matter of time before he is provoked or enticed into a new overseas war.
First 100 Days
Nobody can know what will happen once Trump takes office. No politician does everything he promises he’ll do. But if you look at the promises and platforms put forth by Trump and the Republican Party’s ideologues who are their congressional leaders and platform writers, the Obama years are poised to vanish, as a crueler, colder and more draconian America comes into view.
IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California, U.S. June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson