When Donald Trump won the presidency, pundits predicted he would “grow into the office.” The hope was that he would realize the enormous responsibilities that come with the leadership of a powerful and wealthy nation, put aside his overwhelming need for self-gratification, and exhibit the gravitas of a world leader. But that didn’t happen.

So in 2018, expect those who kindly cut him slack in 2017 to realize the only way to deal with Trump is to fight back hard in the New Year with teeth and claws bared.

The simple but sad truth is that President Trump has very little experience dealing with the wide spectrum of our population. Being a billionaire, when he needs something done, he hires people from the “working class” to do it — and sometimes he even pays them what he owes them. But as far as socializing with or understanding the travails of lower or middle-class citizens, that’s not part of his life.

As disgraced heiress Leona Helmsley once said before being prosecuted for not paying her contractors and federal taxes: “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes.” And sure enough, if you have the money to hire the best accountants and lawyers in the nation, they will pry the tax loopholes open big enough to drive trucks full of money through without paying a dime to the government.

Being so vastly displaced from the plight of the “common man” makes it difficult to identify with the realities those “little people” face on a daily basis. Thus, if you think you have to defund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) so you can give enormous tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, you can do it without experiencing the impacts of your actions.

But as Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, found out when told the common people couldn’t afford bread — and supposedly haughtily replied, “Let them eat cake” — there can be real consequences for ignoring the needs of the many for the greed of the few. In her case, the lesson ended with her head in a bucket on the wrong side of a guillotine blade during the French Revolution. She is not alone in this regard and history is replete with examples of kings, queens and czars who faced the wrath of a populace preyed upon by unscrupulous leaders.

It’s not likely that 2018 will see any guillotines; there is little doubt that the majority of the population that currently disapprove of Trump will remain peaceful while their environment is destroyed, their public lands handed over to extractive industries, the social safety net is shredded, and the nation’s Treasury is looted to benefit corporations and the already wealthy. 

For one thing, it’s a mid-term election year, which is when political parties that hold the presidency and majorities in Congress traditionally suffer their greatest losses. That bodes ill for Republicans and Trump in the political arena. Is it possible the Republicans could lose their majorities in Congress? Absolutely. And if they do, Trump’s destructive “agenda” will grind to a halt.

The political arena is not the only place for a disgruntled populace to rise up, however. Expect the protests that already plague Trump to intensify and broaden. With the very pillars of our democracy at stake, Trump will find out that endless cruel attacks on individuals, the media and social civility have consequences. 2018 is likely to be the year when “greed meets need” and our narcissistic president finally faces the realities of his misplaced priorities and policies.

George Ochenski writes from Helena. His column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. He can be reached by email at oped@missoulian.com.

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