The Issue with Draining the Swamp

By Zachary Blevins

Build the wall. Lock her up. Make America Great Again.

These phrases are hallmark of President-elect Trump’s election. With so much frenzy around the Trump campaign, these phrases, in my opinion, didn’t receive the complete analysis they deserved.

So, I’d like to break one of these down: Drain the Swamp

Washington DC has always been referred to as a swamp town, either due to its unfavorable weather pattern since it is literally man-made land in a swampy area or due to its negative perception and favorability with the American people. Regardless of party, it’s safe to say that Americans want some change in Washington DC one way or another.

However, for the Trump administration, the idea of “draining the swamp” and refilling it with bright, passionate, engaged civil servants is rather idealistic. Yes, it may make for catchy campaigning, but it’s implementation is rough.

Consider this: Trump is a businessman. People liked that because he was seen as an outsider. In his business, Trump served as C.E.O. with a vast array of employees that answered to him; when he wanted something, he got it.

That doesn’t necessary translate to D.C. Trump now has Congress to work with to get anything done: 535 members who are their to represent their constituent’s interests and not Trump’s. Now, there are going to be times where those align; however, Trump didn’t receive a majority of the popular vote. So, his mandate to govern is not as strong as it could be.

Therefore, Trump needs to surround himself with people who understand how D.C work. Rex Tillerson, Betsy Devos, and Dr. Ben Carson aren’t those people. They, like Trump, are successful individuals in their respective fields, but they lack direct political experience. So, “draining the swamp” will inversely impact Trump’s ability to advance his agenda.

Nat Greene and Erik Fogg address this idea rather intriguingly in their book “Wedged.” In assessing this situation before Trump ever entered the picture, they assert that a clean slate of politicians is not going to yield the results that people hope for. Starting over is likely to end up with the same problems: gridlock, partisanship, greed – it’s a part of human nature. So, as Greene and Fogg suggest, inputting a new crop of workers in D.C. is a short-term “solution.”

I’m predicting that Trump will quickly work to balance his staff when he sees the negative effects of a drained swamp. His choice of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff, a man who he sparred with during the election, is reflective of that prediction. “Drain the Swamp” – good campaign rhetoric, difficult when implemented.

As Meredith McGehee, Issue One Chief of Policy, Programs and Strategy, suggested, Mike Pence serving as Vice President may be the one who is truly running the show. While Trump tweets and distracts, Pence has the executive experience to understand how best to navigate in a multi-branched government and could have a significant influence on the agenda of the Trump administration. This isn’t to say Trump is weaker than Pence; rather, the influence of Pence can easily be underestimated, especially since

And, as Drake in DC has met with individuals across this town, it has become apparent how much uncertainty there is with how the Trump administration will operate.

Take Allison Thomas at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). She is the Acting Associate Administrator and General Sales Manager. Since she’s considered a career employee and not a political appointee, she typically transitions across administrations, adjusting to the practices of a new president. With Trump’s interest in draining the swamp, that job security is not as strong as it use to be.

Losing quality public servants for the sake of change is not productive in my opinion; that’s why the idea to “Drain the Swamp” is a problematic one.

The loss of quality public servants for the sake of change is a problematic one; “Drain the Swamp” may not be helpful to creating a functioning government.

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