“Thy road, the right, toward Pluto’s dwelling goes, and leads us to Elysium. But the left speeds sinful souls to doom…” –Virgil’s Aeneid
President-elect Donald Trump can wake up every morning with a yuge grin on his face. He happens to be in a position that comes along once in a Super Moon. With substantial majorities in both the House and Senate, Trump can become a legendary president. #MAGA be damned, we should be talking monuments.
The truth is that Trump need only accomplish three simple tasks to become the conservative hero of this generation: (1) Appoint a conservative justice to fill Scalia’s seat, (2) Repeal and replace ObamaCare, and (3) Sign an appropriations bill that funds the construction of a border wall. It really is that simple. After those three basic accomplishments, Trump creates a veritable “legacy floor,” from which he could ostensibly spend the rest of his term playing golf at Mar-A-Lago.
The Conservative movement has been nearly devoid of a substantial policy victory since the Bush Tax Cuts of 2001. While we’ve seen some legal successes at the Supreme Court, and we’ve witnessed scores of political wins in election after election, conservatism as a federal legislative success story was on the verge of extinction. President-elect Trump is in a unique position: he will be legitimately able to claim victory for battles fought long before his candidacy. He is embracing an eager Congress, plagued by abysmal approval ratings for failing to deliver on promises to their constituents, led by Speaker Ryan, who has yearned for years to see his policies actualized. If Ryan’s “A Better Way” reforms were bullets, they’d be locked, loaded and ready to fire.
Regarding the first two accomplishments, one can argue that any elected Republican president could accomplish those tasks. However, when it comes to funding the wall, Donald J. Trump is in a unique position. His electoral mandate will force the hands of many dovish Republican members of Congress who would otherwise balk at being seen as a hardliner on immigration. It’s Trump and Trump alone who will have made the appropriation happen; and to the victor goes the spoils.
When I said that the wall need merely be funded and not completed, I meant it. A perfect case study of how political legacy can be formed independently of a policy’s outcome comes by way of my home state of Arizona. Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB-1070, the famed, nationally known, conservative immigration bill in 2010, rocketing her to national fame as a border hawk. The truth is, Brewer signed the bill only after polling the legislation, seeing how it would politically benefit her, and signing it with minutes to spare before it would have “pocket-passed” without her signature. Conservatives didn’t associate the bill’s lack of implementation with Brewer’s legacy. Nor did Brewer’s subsequent support for Medicaid expansion, Common Core, tax increases, or billion-dollar budgets seem to interfere with her conservative bona fides. She could do no wrong. Fellow Arizona politicos refer to this as the “Brewer Rule,” that is: If you sign a bill that’s tough on the border, you’re a conservative, never mind all other evidence to the contrary.
Once President-elect Trump accomplishes the three aforementioned tasks, it by-no-means precludes him from building upon his legacy. By signing tax reform, regulatory reform, and energy reform legislation, Trump can arguably become the most conservative president since Calvin Coolidge, surpassing even his Holiness, St. Ronald, himself. On the other hand, Keynesian spending, coupled with tariffs and trade wars, can place him squarely on a more Nixonian policy path. Yet, even with a trillion-dollar Obama-style stimulus infrastructure bill, the “Brewer Rule” holds true. Put a conservative on the Court, repeal and replace ObamaCare, and sign a funding bill for the border wall and our children may very well be visiting Trump Monument along the Washington mall.