Before answering the unanswerable, we have to go over the ground rules.
I learned what I am about to share with you under the Chatham House Rule. It goes like this: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”
When the rule is invoked, it typically means the gathering took place at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, but this gathering did not. It took place at a venue that also does not want its name mentioned so the whole thing has an extra air of mystery.
It is entirely possible that these customs and practices serve mostly to make writers seem more important than we might actually be.
To the extent Donald Trump is knowable the speaker knows him. I’ll share some observations and a rule I have been living by for the last few weeks.
Steve Bannon, the Goldman Sachs / Breitbart guy (bet you never thought you’d see those words strung together) who drove insiders crazy when he was named Chief Strategist and Senior Advisor, is obsessed with globalization and populism. He is fascinated by William Jennings Bryan, the Nebraskan who ran for President three times (1896, 1900, 1908) on what would today be called an Occupy Wall Street platform (“Do not crucify me on a cross of gold”). Like Hillary Clinton, Bryan then supported himself giving paid speeches and got to be Secretary of State.
Watch for populist ideas and disruption, perhaps with a soupcon of mainstream conservatism. Trump relies on unpredictability as a source of power.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer will succeed Nevada Senator Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader. His relationship with Trump and vice versa will be a key to getting anything done. Both are dealmakers and what do dealmakers do? They make deals. Partisan purity or compromises to get results: you can’t have both.
White working class Trump voters supported him as intensely as any candidate has been supported by any group in recent years. They don’t think in right-left terms. Better to think in terms of those perceived to be protected or unprotected in determining who fits where. The unprotected are angry.
Trump might act like a child but he is an amazingly street smart adult who likes to keep people on their toes by being combative.
As to dealing with the Washington establishment, Trump is clueless, so he will have to depend on his VP, Mike Pence with whom he has virtually no relationship.
Son-in-law, Jared Kushner (mid-30s married to Ivanka) will be a major influence.
If you care about debt or describe yourself as a deficit hawk, this will not be your favorite presidency. They rank nowhere on Trump’s agenda.
If you like military spending, watch for more emphasis on preparedness than intervention.
2017, with GOP House and Senate majorities, will be the year for an aggressive conservative agenda that will enable Trump to be seen as a man of action.
It is hard to tell which group is in greater disarray the Democrats or the press. The worst punishment for both is to be ignored.
Here is the rule I have been living by these last few weeks. Those who actually know what Donald Trump will do are keeping their mouths shut and those who are talking are probably guessing.
I am not sure there are many of the former, maybe not even President-elect Trump.