Why Trump’s Refusal To Accept The Election Results Can’t Be Dismissed
Politicians’ attitudes help move public opinion. Public policy often follows. Rhetoric, therefore, that isn’t followed by executive action cannot be easily dismissed.
There’s often a difference between Trump the rhetorician (if one can call the oddly-capitalized mish-mash of sentence fragments the president spews “rhetoric” without making Aristotle weep) and Trump the politician.
Contrary to the president’s bombast, Mexico still hasn’t paid for the border wall, America hasn’t won any of the supposedly easy trade wars the president started and trade deficits with multiple nations are bigger than ever (actually a net positive for consumers). He hasn’t taxed any of the companies looking to build plants overseas “like never before,” as he threatened.
Of course, there are plenty of instances where the president’s actions do match his rhetoric. Unilateral executive action on trade, again, sticks out. Bailouts to farmers stick out. Fixing drug prices stick out.
But while these policies are ultimately not fantastic for anyone who thinks executive legislation sets a dangerous Constitutional precedent, they’re also less permanent than laws passed by Congress.
These are the types of policies that vacillate in time with the partisan flipping of the executive: a Republican president issues new orders that reverse the policies of the Democrat whom he succeeded, then his predecessor comes in an flips them again.
The greater danger is the precedent they set: they normalize the idea that, in the absence of Congressional action, executive action on legislative matters is not only desirable but appropriate.
But what about the rhetoric that isn’t backed up by action? What kind of precedent does this set? Public policy moves not just through measurable and tangible actions, but through more ephemeral things: like perceptions of ideas.
Take attitudes towards same-sex unions. Within twenty years, the United States went from enacting policies like don’t ask, don’t tell in 1993 to affirming, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, that same-sex couples have a right to marriage. It wasn’t policy victories responsible for this…