Letters from Boston: How You Campaign Determines How You Govern

How you campaign determines how you govern.

Donald Trump campaigned on a series of promises that ranged from the most moderate (repealing everything and anything that our first black President accomplished with Obamacare at the top of the list) to the least moderate (banning travel by people of a certain religion, rounding up all undocumented immigrants into for-profit internment camps, and killing the women, children and other family members of enemy combatants).

There was nothing conciliatory about Mr. Trump’s inaugural address. Reconciliation was not the intent of first salvo of largely unconstitutional executive orders targeting Muslims and immigrants. He said:

“We intend to keep every promise we have made.”

It should then be little wonder that the honeymoon phase of his Presidency has been met with steadfast opposition not only from Democrats, but from principled Republicans in his own Party.

Now that the responsibility of governing has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party, some degree of moderation is starting to re-emerge.

Ryancare and Trumpcare went down in flames for good reason. Let us hope that good-natured Republicans continue to make full use of their newfound power to defend the common good we share.

It’s not really possible to repeal Obamacare without repealing the new coverage by which millions of white Trump-voting Americans know it: the Affordable Care Act. Trump and his campaign guys did a great job painting “healthcare for all” as a wasteful expansion of welfare. But most Republican members of Congress realized great numbers of their own constituents now depend on Obamacare/Affordable Care Act for their family’s coverage, whatever the racial resentments around the name.

There is a lot that can be done to improve healthcare in America. But knocking 24 million Americans off of coverage isn’t one of them.

Again, how you campaign determines how you govern.

Civilian casualties in U.S. drone strikes and bombings are reportedly way up. It remains to be determined whether this is a result of a policy change by our half-elected President. What we do know, for sure, is that he has reversed the prior policy of placing those weapons of war that was previously solely in the hands of the Defense Department now into those of the CIA, whose name and reputation he has no problem besmirching. And what we do know, for sure, is that during the campaign he said that to win the war on ISIS we must:

“Take out their families.”

Kind of hard to say we aren’t doing that when the guy who is President campaigned on doing that and has promised to fulfill all of his promises.

And then there are the immigrant roundups happening all across our country. Moms and dads being torn away from their American-born children in this new American ethnic purge, which is the leading edge of the new Trump Administration. There is no need for congressional approval on this one. Fortunately, many courts are slamming on the Constitutional brakes.

When I was leaving church this Sunday in Baltimore, I ran into a renowned medical research doctor in my parish. Without federal investments in healing through the National Institute of Health, he would not have been able to save all the lives his work is saving. I said to him, “it was good to see that Trump failed so badly at repealing healthcare reform.” His response surprised me — to the extent anything political can anymore:

“I’m a good-natured Republican, I just want to see us get things done again.”

God bless him. I want us to get things done again too.

Recently it was reported:

“The Trump administration plans to reduce the National Institutes of Health’s budget by $6 billion, to $25.9 billion next year, a cut of nearly 20 percent. The vast majority of NIH’s budget funds grants that support hundreds of thousands of researchers and scientists in universities and institutes around the United States.”

I doubt seriously that this is the sort of thing my doctor friend wants to get done.

There is a time and season for everything. Perhaps under a President Pence we might start getting things done sooner rather than later. But so long as Donald Trump seeks to fulfill the promises of his campaign of fear and loathing, our duty is not to get things done, but to prevent them from BEING DONE to our neighbors in our country or to our neighbors in other countries.

As Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego recently said:

“We must all become disruptors. We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men, women and children as forces of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.”

The Trump Administration is malice tempered only by incompetence. I know not what choice others may take, but count me among the disruptors.


Martin O’Malley is the Jerome Lyle Rappaport Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School for the spring 2017 semester. He is teaching a class on Leadership and Data Driven Government, while also participating in several panel discussions as part of the Rappaport Distinguished Public Policy Series. Every Monday he is publishing his thoughts in a series titled, “Letters from Boston.”

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