The way forward on Trump nominees…pt 2, a modest proposal

So… in the month since my last post, Trump has gone on to announce a whole string of alarming nominees. Trump manages to make even boring roles like OMB cause for panic (see my Nominees page for my reasons for panic).

Based on Marie Claire’s great article on the likely outcomes of the cabinet appointment process,* the best case scenario seems to be Trump’s nominees withdrawing themselves from consideration. Having the nominees withdraw themselves is preferable to dragging out the confirmation process (btw the GOP had no problems doing this to Obama), since Trump has the authority to designate an acting head while waiting for the completion of the confirmation process. Normally, acting heads are non-political career civil servants from within the department, but we know that norms mean nothing to Trump, and his strategists are not above playing dirty. Trump could use a long confirmation process to have a lower-level appointee who does not need Senate confirmation take office. The only thing stopping an acting head from pushing forward Trump and the GOP’s disastrous agenda? Norms. Trump is unlikely to withdraw a nomination, and the Senate votes and history are all on Trump’s side for his nominees to get confirmed. So, in the end, a looong confirmation fight has little chance at stopping Trump while making Democrats look like obstructionist partisans. On the other hand, if nominees withdraw themselves, it could help damage Trump’s self-professed reputation for being able to hire “the best people.

I’m not advocating Dems just take a knee during the confirmation hearings- hopefully they can make the hearings Must-See-TV so that the American public can be made properly alarmed of the potential for, among other things, kleptocracy and the repeal of popular protections and policies. Maybe some amusing floor charts could help? By all means, call your senators to let them know what questions you want them to be asking during the hearings.

My modest proposal is to make not worth it to be nominee. It’s been well-reported that his nominees are really, really rich. These people are presumably living great lives, like Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin and his hot wife. We have to make it so that they can’t just add having the incredible power of the federal government at their finger tips to their already wonderful lives. There has to be a price. A portion of that price should come in the form of sacrificing wealth. Cabinet members are subject to conflict-of-interest laws, so we should force them to sacrifice wealth (as Obama did by keeping his wealth in relatively low yield investments that allowed transparency, meaning that he didn’t need to have a blind trust).  The other portion of that price should be a loss of privacy. Taking a position in a democratic government means that you are now accountable to the citizens of that government. Nominees need to be made aware that they will be subject to Freedom of Information Laws. We will be requesting their correspondence and their daily schedules.

Besides their official business, we also should be interested in their personal lives. We should be creating a market for paparazzi to shift their focus from starlets to current and potential members of the Trump administration- and not just when they’re entering Trump Tower. I want paparazzi camped outside the restaurants they eat at when they’re not with Trump to see if they’re meeting with individuals with sketchy Russian ties. I want to know if they’re partying with an actual child trafficker or someone who helped Goldman Sachs profit from an international money laundering scheme.  I want to know how they talk about minorities off the record. If we can look at pictures of Mandy Moore at Whole Foods and shots of Chelsea Handler on the beach in Mexico and if John Podesta’s CVS runs qualify as newsworthy, then I want to know where Trump’s nominees vacation, who they spend their time with, how they live. The thing is, we can do this- tabloids follow eyeballs. If posts on Trump nominees get hits, tabloids will devote more resources to following them. Hollywood Life and TMZ have made a decent start, but more on the nominees please! Come on, these nominees are rich- even if there’s no juicy dirt (Wolf of Wall-esque debauchery or Eyes Wide Shut style orgies), there’s sure to be plenty of enjoyable voyeurism along the lines of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous/Rich Kids of Instagram.

A March 2012 Bloomberg profile of Steve Mnuchin (Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary) illustrates the power of literally hitting people where they live: night last October, he found himself trying to explain to his three children why approximately 100 protestors waving “Make Banks Pay” signs had set up camp outside the family’s 21,000-square-foot, $26 million Bel Air mansion. The demonstration was led by a foreclosed homeowner, Rose Gudiel, whose mortgage was serviced by OneWest, the bank Mnuchin and a group of fellow investors built from the ruins of IndyMac. A police helicopter arrived on the scene and cops pushed the protestors to the curb. No arrests were made. Yet five months later the episode rankles. Sitting for a February interview in his corner office in OneWest Bank’s Pasadena headquarters, amid signed photos of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and a six-volume bound set of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. regulations, Mnuchin stresses one unusual request: that we not publish his home address.

Edit: Just wanted to add that there are groups that you can give money to that are actively working on opposition research about Trump nominees- this Buzzfeed article mentions American Bridge and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

*I just want to say how much I love that women’s publications are really taking a lead when it comes to reporting on Trump- it completely makes sense, though.  A Trump administration could cause women to lose many rights and protections (like access to reproductive health, protections from discriminatory health insurance pricing, enforcement of protections from wage discrimination, etc.) and wind back many of the gains we have made against the structural and cultural forces that make sexual assault against women endemic. (See the House Freedom Caucus’ First 100 Days proposal which, in reference to Title IX guidance documentation on sexual assault and campus rapes, includes pointed references to date rape, “the incidence of which may be overestimated,” and the “often-innocent accused.”)