President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office Friday and become our 45th president.
All Americans should be praying for him, whether they supported him or not. After all, we are Americans first.
He will need the prayers, as Mr. Trump is inheriting a larger and more complex set of urgent challenges than any president in my lifetime.
It is true that he is not inheriting a deep recession as President Obama did, but even an incomplete list of pressing matters sitting on the president-elect’s desk is honestly overwhelming.
Consider: There’s the Syrian humanitarian crisis and civil war; Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and intervention in the U.S. electoral process; North Korean nuclear weapons programs; Iran violating the nuclear deal on a monthly basis; the weakest economic recovery in 70 years, with over 90 million Americans out of work or out of the workforce entirely; a national debt that has nearly doubled under Mr. Obama; the failing Obamacare health care reform; and a southern border that is objectively not secure.
Add to that the fact that Mr. Trump, while comfortably winning the presidency with 306 electoral votes and capturing 30 states, garnered just 46 percent of the popular vote in a four-way race.
Candidly, the transition has been a mixed picture.
The president-elect has recruited a strong Cabinet, which commentator Hugh Hewitt has called “the most conservative in my lifetime.” Mr. Trump is surrounding himself with strong, smart, capable, successful people. That’s the good news.
That said, public polls put Mr. Trump’s current approval ratings in the 40 percent range, which is historically low. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week had Mr. Trump at 43 percent approval, not far off from the 46 percent he won 11 weeks earlier in the election.
Mr. Trump did not enjoy the traditional post-election bump in public popularity. I am not certain this is entirely bad news, since that same poll found that his issues appeared still to enjoy strong public support.
What matters now is what happens next.
On Friday, Mr. Trump will by all accounts give a reasonably short and focused inaugural address. As he did on election night, he should deliver his remarks in a spirit of generosity and unity. That is what this moment requires.
But when he retreats to the Oval Office for the first time as president of the United States, the work begins. In the end, the results will determine if he is a successful president.
In my view, successful presidents must achieve three things: Win re-election (proving popular support), achieve major bipartisan legislative accomplishments and pave the way for a successor to win. President George W. Bush had two of those three. Mr. Obama had just one.
President-elect Donald Trump needs all three to be considered an unquestioned success.
In the near term, he has roughly 100 days to move his agenda.
He will begin by rescinding many of Mr. Obama’s executive orders. Congress will use the Congressional Review Act to remove costly regulations, and pass the a bill to ensure future expensive regulations from any administration first pass Congress. I expect that this will stimulate the economy almost immediately.
By the end of February, Congress has pledged to repeal Obamacare, requiring just 51 votes in the Senate. In March, lawmakers will need to pass a debt ceiling increase. By the end of March, they will attempt to pass a replacement of Obamacare, which requires 60 votes, meaning at least eight Democrats will need to support the replacement legislation.
And, polls and elections aside, here are the results that matter: Did Americans see their wages rise? Did income inequality improve? Did our country’s annual economic growth reach at least 3 percent in 2017? Did Americans feel more secure at home and abroad?
These are the questions that Americans are asking as the new Trump presidency begins.
Donald Trump ran for president to achieve big things — secure the border, repeal and replace Obamacare, rebuild the military, bring back a strong economy, put a conservative on the Supreme Court and cut better trade deals for American workers. The transition was about preparing to move quickly on that agenda.
The real work begins Friday.
• Matt Mackowiak is the president of Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran, and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. He is the host of a new national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” produced in partnership with The Washington Times. His podcast may be found at washingtontimes.com/mackonpolitics.
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