By Taylor Sellers
In the last few days before Donald Trump is inaugurated as President of the United States, scholars and citizens alike have been weighing in on what would happen to the nation “if Trump were smart.”
Marquette Professor Julia Azari, in our morning academic session, pushed us to question what people really mean when they start their sentence with “if Trump were smart.” It is pretty obvious that Trump is smart in at least some aspects: he is a businessman with the wealth to show his success. He also managed to convince voters that he was the right person to run the country.
I think that asking people what Trump would do if he was smart isn’t particularly helpful. When meeting with Sarah Binder, a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings institution, I asked her what Trump should do to create useful ties with congress. “If he were smart.” Her extensive political knowledge conjured up very important initiatives Donald Trump could (and possibly should) take. She proposed that Donald Trump stop ridiculing members of congress, retreat from his intensely polarized practices, and keep the Republican party affiliated with his agenda.
Her advice is the key in forming advantageous relationships with congress. But Donald Trump has never worked the way people say office holders should “if they were smart.”
Donald Trump’s intelligence is not what is coming under fire when we use this phrase. For most, being “smart” is following a clear precedent of what has worked for politicians in the past. Donald Trump’s appeal has never relied on doing what a politician would do.
When we speak about being “smart” we talk about being predictable. We talk about doing things in the logical way that has been validated. Predictability in politics has been a given for most of history, at the very least for political analysts. That was the case, at least, before the Trump win that rocked the nation.
When we met with our House Representative today, Republican David Young, it was clear that he was still unsure about Donald Trump, and the stance his party would take. It appears that everybody is holding their breath, watching and waiting for Donald Trump to shake the ground of Washington D.C. as it stands. His first few moves as president will decide who is his ally and what he will be capable of.
The question remains if he will be “smart,” carve his path to failure, or carve his path to victory. In an extraordinary case like this, anyone’s guess could reflect the outcome.