Editorial: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

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President-elect Donald Trump | AP Photo

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Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States. Prepare to be disappointed.

Trump’s consistent critics, including this editorial page, undoubtedly will be disappointed. A crude worshiper of all things shallow, beginning with his reflection in the mirror, soon will occupy the White House. He did a terrific job of exploiting white small-town, rural and Southern resentment — a growing class of Americans who feel that both parties abandoned them a long time ago.

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We wish Mr. Trump well, as we would wish any new president well. We are one nation and must always try to rally behind a new president, hoping for the best. But we can’t pretend. We have made our displeasure with Trump clear all year. We dread the thought of a president of the United States who sits up at night tweeting out insults.

But it is Trump’s own supporters, we predict, who will be most disappointed, because they actually expect their man to come through for them. Results are not Trump’s strong suit, not without bankruptcies and tax-dodging and character assassination and evasions given under oath during depositions.

Impossible promises are more Trump’s thing, which worked great for the candidate but will fall flat for the president.

And then what? Should Trump prove to be an emperor with no clothes — once it becomes clear he cannot build “the wall” or send millions of undocumented immigrants back to Mexico or bring back millions of rust-belt era jobs — where will his discontented followers turn next?

And will leaders of the Republican Party, at least those who have not already sold out to the absolutist right, finally rediscover their principles and counter the new president’s worst impulses and policies? If, for example, Trump were to decide to sic the Justice Department on Hillary Clinton — and nobody should put that past him — will they cry foul?

Our honest prediction, based on how Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain fearfully fled confrontation with this man they openly loathe, is no, they will not. Not a chance.

We fear President Trump will conduct himself as president in the same uninformed, impulsive and vendetta-driven way he ran for the office, and leaders of the Republican Party that he hijacked will continue to overlook or rationalize his misdeeds. The politics of local elections, in which extremely gerrymandered congressional districts put voter control in the hands of the ideologues, will continue to work against voices of reason.

All the same, Trump fans, be prepared for disappointment.

President Trump will never build an impenetrable wall across the entire southern border and Mexico will never pay for it. It would be extremely expensive, stretched over some 1,200 miles, and it won’t work. People looking for work to support their families will always find a way here.

President Trump will never deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It can’t be done. It is a proposal taken seriously only by a heartless and fascist fringe.

President Trump won’t throw up walls against global trade. Not unless he wishes to see the United States fall far behind in the world economy. Global trade is the new reality, here to stay. The average car is made with parts from here, there and everywhere. Trump could kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with 12 Pacific Rim nations, but he would just have to negotiate a very similar deal or watch China call the shots on trade in that region, much to the disadvantage of the United States.

When Trump threatens to put up walls of protectionism, in defiance of the inevitability of global trade in an increasingly small world, he reminds us of Hugo Chavez. The now deceased Venezuelan president threw basic rules of free trade to the wind and drove his country’s once-thriving economy into the sewer.

President Trump will never bring back some 4 million manufacturing jobs lost since the 1940s. Global economics work against it. Those jobs have gone elsewhere, where labor is cheaper, which is why Americans can afford their iPhones and flat-screen TVs.

President Trump will not distance our nation from traditional alliances, not in a dangerous world. He would never pull the United States out of NATO just because he thinks our allies should pay more.

Or maybe he would. Maybe he would turn to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin for a new security blanket. Not for nothing does Trump worry us.

President Trump will never return the United States to the 1950s. Elvis is dead. Buddy Holly and Joe McCarthy, too. “Happy Days” was just a TV show.

And President Trump will not cut taxes significantly. His proposed plan, according to government estimates, would bloat the federal deficit by $10 trillion over ten years, even factoring in economic growth.

Then again, maybe he would. That he might should worry you, too.

Is it any wonder that global markets were spooked by news of Trump’s victory?

The truth of the matter is that nobody can predict how President Donald Trump will govern. We are confident his personal style won’t change. He will lash out at critics. He will make it all about himself. But on matters of policy, Trump has always been an opportunist, not a man of convictions. He was pro-choice before he was anti-abortion. He was a mildly liberal New York Democrat before, for reasons of expedience, he lumbered over to the disgruntled know-nothing right.

Right about now, that’s looking like an opening to us, a small ray of hope.

Maybe, just maybe, a President Trump will distance himself from the worst promises of candidate Trump and move closer to the pragmatic, centrist middle.

We can hope, right?

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