Eight years ago, I passed through a brief moment of cautious optimism about the Obama administration. His election has been so historic, and the country had just suffered the traumatic 2008 market crash. Like many people, I wanted some reasons for optimism.
I am much more optimistic about President-elect Trump, but I am also cautious. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign and his horrible performance during the debates sealed the deal that I could never vote for him. But I have been pleasantly surprised since his election. To be quite frank, I was certain Trump would govern like a moderate New York Democrat. But if anything, his Cabinet choices indicate he may have the most conservative administration since Reagan. Trump is certain to disappoint in some areas, but there has been a lot of good news for conservative Trump skeptics since his election.
Here are some of the primary reasons for optimism from my perspective.
1)Religious liberty. The last eight years have been frightening for those of us who care about religious liberty. Every week brings a new outrage with Christians on the defensive if they actually follow traditional Christian teachings. Religious freedom has been one of the primary Church causes in recent years, as can be seen from this page on the Church web site. The good news is that, much to my surprise, Trump’s administration seems to see religious freedom as an important issue. Trump has said that the country will be saying Merry Christmas again, which is an important rhetorical signal, in my opinion. But most importantly, Trump’s appointment for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, is one of the biggest defenders of religious freedom in Congress. Trump has also indicated he will appoint conservative judges who understand the importance of religious freedom. There is a lot of room for optimism. (Note: Trump said some truly unfortunate things about Muslims during the campaign. This story details Trump’s comments on a Muslim religious registry. To sum up: Trump has gone back and forth on that issue. Let me be perfectly clear: a registry or database of Americans based on their religions would violate the first amendment, and all Mormons should oppose such a scheme. If Trump or his administration takes such steps, I will be one of the first to condemn it. Personally, I don’t believe we will get anything close to a Muslim registry. I hope I am not wrong. Note the use of the word “cautious” in the title of this post).
2)School choice. Trump made school choice and opposition to Common Core central to his campaign. This is a huge issue for those of us with children, especially if you live in areas where the public schools are failing. The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is a reason for hope. DeVos is one of the country’s leading supporters of home schooling, vouchers and charter schools. Despite what you may have read from some fringe publications, she also opposes Common Core. DeVos’ leadership has the potential to revolutionize education in America.
3)Federal court appointments. The latest information from the transition team seems to indicate Trump really will appoint constitutionalist judges. All I can say is: Hallelujah! I am sure that Trump will disappoint us on some appointments, but his list of potential Supreme Court justices is top-notch. There are all kinds of encouraging signs here: Trump met with Judge Andrew Napolitano to consult on federal appointees. Utah’s Thomas Lee is apparently high on Trump’s list of appointees, and he would be an excellent choice.
4)Foreign policy. Trump’s Washington outsider perspective has allowed him to say some sensational and surprisingly wise things about foreign policy. Trump has said the Iraq war was a mistake and has vowed not to get the U.S. involved in the Syrian civil war. His choice for Sect. of State, Rex Tillerson, has a grownup take on Russia. Trump’s friendliness with Russia, and his pokes at China, show that Trump — surprisingly — understands the tripolar vision that the Chinese have about foreign policy. If China sees the U.S. growing friendly with Russia, the Chinese will feel on the defensive and will be more willing to assist with important issues like North Korea. This is the area where a Trump administration has the greatest latitude for action, and I am cautiously optimistic that the U.S. will avoid unnecessary warmongering for the next four years while at the same time applying diplomacy that is in the U.S interests. That would be a nice change from the previous 16 years. Will Trump finally get troops out of Afghanistan and decrease our footprint in the Middle East? Will he revise the outdated NATO treaty? There is some reason for hope.
5) Energy policy. Reforming America’s politically correct energy policy was another central plank of Trump’s campaign. His choices for Energy Sect. (Rick Perry) and Interior Secretary (Ryan Zinke) indicate that Trump will emphasize domestic production — which will create millions of new high-paying jobs — while also protecting the environment. As I point out in this post, the Church has made it clear that the Earth’s resources are meant to be used responsibly and that environmental policy should not be based on ideological concerns. Given that fossil fuels continue to be the best source of energy, and that jobs in fossil fuels tend to pay very well, Trump’s approach to energy policy is prudent and certain to bring growth to the U.S. economy.
6)Economic policy. The single greatest threat today to the United States is the national debt and out of control government spending. Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan indicated to me he had no real knowledge about the size of that threat. But meanwhile, Trump has shown some attention to costs on some small issues including Defense spending. And his appointment of Congressman Mick Mulvaney as head of the Office of Management and Budget shows a surprising fiscally conservative streak in Trump that I was not expecting. Like many things with Trump, there are reasons to be worried but also reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we actually get a Trump administration that cuts the size of government.
Trump is certain to disappoint conservative/libertarians types like myself as well as a lot of other people on the political spectrum. I am concerned about his immigration policy, and I am far from convinced he will actually sign budgets that cut the size of government. Trump has shown few signs that he cares about civil liberties (except for the 2nd Amendment), and this is worrisome. So don’t get me wrong: I know there will be many things to complain about under a Trump administration. But for now I am pleasantly surprised. I hope you are too.