This morning, as I watch Donald Trump standing on the steps of the Capitol taking the oath of office as the next president of the United States, one thought will be going through my mind:
There, but for the grace of God, goes Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Yes, there are many reasons to be wary of President Trump. But there are also many reasons for conservatives to be hopeful.
First and foremost is that Trump will restore the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Had Clinton been the one to fill the seat left by Justice Antonin Scalia, she would have shifted the court leftward for a generation — with disastrous consequences for human life, religious liberty, the Second Amendment and limited government. Instead, Trump will replace Scalia, and Democrats are powerless to stop him. Should Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) follow through on his threat to stonewall Trump’s pick, Republicans can simply follow the precedent that Democrats set in 2013, when they changed Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for lifetime judicial appointments to the federal circuit courts.
Second, Trump has picked perhaps the most conservative Cabinet of any president in modern history — from Tom Price at Health and Human Services to Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Jeff Sessions at Justice and Betsy DeVos at Education. Because Democrats eliminated the filibuster for most presidential nominations, Republicans don’t need Democratic votes to confirm Trump’s appointments. If the axiom that “staff is policy” is true, this will be a deeply conservative administration.
Third, Trump is an outsider who intends to break the mold of governance in Washington. He is not here to make incremental changes. He plans to go big. That holds both promise and peril. If he goes big in the wrong direction (isolationism, protectionism), the results could be disastrous. But Trump has promised to go big on a lot of important conservative priorities. Liberals had better hold on tight.
Look for Trump to usher in a golden age of conservative education reform. Millions of children trapped in failing public schools will soon get the chance to attend private, charter, magnet, religious or home schools of their parents’ choice. Choice will make traditional public schools better, too, as they are forced to reform to attract students. States will be free to innovate, as Trump dramatically expands their ability to use federal K-12 funds without federal pressure or coercion. The prospects for change and innovation in education have never been brighter.
Trump will roll back the wet blanket of regulations smothering our economy. President Obama set a land speed record for major regulations (“major” defined as costing the economy at least $100 million a year ), imposing more than 600 since taking office. Trump will begin paring back regulations on Day One and halt the regulatory machine that is stifling entrepreneurship and job creation in America.
On tax reform, Trump will not simply tinker with rates, but also will seek to fundamentally transform the tax code, making it simpler for families and individuals, and finally giving U.S. businesses globally competitive rates. That will happen either with bipartisan cooperation, which is more lasting and preferable, or through the budget reconciliation process, which can be done with just the Republican majority. But either way, fundamental tax reform is coming.
Trump will unleash a new age of energy exploration that will put the United States on a path toward energy independence. Obama’s restrictions on responsible offshore exploration will be reversed, and his war on coal will end. Some $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves — according to Trump — plus hundreds of years in coal reserves, will finally be tapped. Jobs will be created, and the United States will dramatically reduce its dependence on energy from regimes hostile to U.S. interests.
I predict Trump will surprise many and become a champion of policies that help the poor and vulnerable. He got no credit for it, but Trump spoke more about fighting poverty than any Republican presidential candidate in recent memory, even promising that “at the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African American vote. . . . Because I will produce.” If he wants to produce for struggling Americans, conservatives have developed a robust agenda of innovative proposals for reducing poverty and dependency that he can tap into.
On national defense, Obama’s defense cuts have left the country effectively a “one war” power. Trump has promised to increase the size of our Army, Navy and Air Force, strengthening and expanding our nuclear deterrent and building ballistic missile defenses. Trump will also unleash the U.S. military to win the fight against ISIS, paring back the restrictive rules of engagement Obama imposed. And the United States will begin capturing and interrogating terrorists again, instead of vaporizing them all with drones.
None of this would be remotely possible if it were Hillary Clinton taking the oath of office today. So yes, Donald Trump is less than perfect. If he tries to take the country in the wrong direction, he should be challenged. But if he fulfills even a fraction of these promises, he would be what Obama hoped to be: a transformational president.
That’s why today is a day of hope.