Democrats in Congress appear to be taking the idea of “give Trump a chance” seriously, with Jennifer Steinhauser reporting on a surprisingly wide consensus ranging from Chuck Schumer to Elizabeth Warren that Democrats should try to work with Trump on an infrastructure bill and perhaps other priorities in order to distance him from congressional Republican leaders.
Jonathan Chait says this is political malpractice, and Brad Plumer’s explainer on the actual content of Trump’s infrastructure plan reveals that it actually has nothing in common with liberal ideas on infrastructure. Rather than spend new money on important priorities that only the public sector can execute, Trump is proposing tax cuts for private companies that are already investing in profitable private infrastructure schemes.
Outgoing Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid has struck a very different tone, but he’ll be gone come January. But last night, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego — who, similarly to Reid, represents a heavily Latino constituency in a region of the country where Democrats are gaining ground — gave a speech that was much more along Reid’s lines. He ran down the record of Trump’s bigoted statements, his dishonesty, his self-confessed sexual assaults, his mismanagement of charitable funds, his lack of financial disclosure, and his conflicts of interest, and concluded that it would be ridiculous for Democrats to trust him to manage a series of infrastructure public-private partnerships:
Given everything we know about Donald Trump — and everything we don’t know — I was alarmed by the words of senior leaders from both the progressive and centrist wings of the party regarding their openness to working with Donald Trump on infrastructure.
Under ordinary circumstances, we would welcome a plan to invest in infrastructure — even if that plan came from the other side of the aisle. Especially if it came from the other side of the aisle!
But Donald Trump is not an ordinary politician. He is a con artist. He has refused to give the American people reason to believe that he is not in this to enrich himself. In fact, he has bucked tradition by maintaining his family's interest in a private corporation.
And, unfortunately, his infrastructure plan is really a privatization scheme, rife with graft and corruption, whose real purpose is to enrich the Trump family and his supporters. He is not reaching out. He is reaching his hand into America's pockets, just as he has his whole career. And we must not let him do it.
This strikes me as a better approach. As everyone endlessly repeated throughout the 2016 campaign, both Trump and Hillary Clinton were unusually unpopular nominees. Clinton, in the end, proved slightly less unpopular but lost the Electoral College anyway. That leaves the country with an unusually unpopular president-elect who also happens to pose an unusual risk to American institutions.
Obviously if Trump happens to miraculously roll out a fantastic infrastructure proposal, members of Congress from both parties should take that seriously. But there’s no reason to be bending over backward to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially when he hasn’t even begun to address the obvious conflict-of-interest problems.