By Paul Callan
Editor’s note: Paul Callan is a CNN legal analyst, a former New York homicide prosecutor and currently is “of counsel” to the New York law firm of Edelman and Edelman, PC, focusing on wrongful conviction and civil rights cases. Follow him @paulcallan. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.
(CNN) — Lawyers often practice a second occupation: psychiatrist to their worried friends and family. 2016 has been a banner year for any “counselor at law” like me with a strong side-interest in politics.
This year, I want to share — in the interests of a peaceful Thanksgiving feast for all — a message I have conveyed to my apoplectic liberal and “progressive” friends, who are shaking in fear at the prospect of the Trump inauguration.
Donald Trump is not going to blow up the world.
He is not going turn America into the Third Reich, nor is he going to doom minorities, women, gays and transgender people to a life of hatred, gloom and despair.
He is not anti-Semitic. His daughter, Ivanka converted to Judaism before marrying his loved and respected orthodox Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner. In fact, I predict Trump’s presidency will be a reign of moderation, because — to borrow from of one of the many impressive balloons that will float above the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — Trump is the Pillsbury Doughboy. And the Doughboy gets the baking done.
Like our doughboy, Trump has no soft, ideological core. The lack of this trait was the thing most right-wing conservatives feared about him throughout the early days of the primary season. In fact even President Obama, while graciously offering a note of optimism regarding the Trump presidency, observed that Trump is a “pragmatist and not an ideologue.”
Trump’s flexible political ideology helped Hillary and Bill Clinton snag front-row seats at Trump’s third wedding in 2005, that time to our soon-to-be first lady, Melania Trump. Bill and Hillary were not forced to endure any self-righteous sermons regarding the proper political philosophy, like those inflicted on soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence recently when he attended the Broadway show “Hamilton.” On the contrary, Trump was a major supporter of Democratic Party causes in those years. Democrats in attendance needed no lectures.
And just as a side note: Republicans don’t get divorced and remarried three times. Two appears to be the maximum number of marriages permitted (see Ronald Reagan.)
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was defensive about his earlier relationship with the Clintons and other Democrats. He repeatedly brushed off such criticism, saying that after all he was a businessman just trying to survive in the bluest of all blue cities, New York.
In his earlier years, he donated heavily to Democratic causes and candidates; he supported increased taxes on the wealthy, was pro-choice on abortion, praised universal health care, supported gun restrictions and eventually even registered to vote as a Democrat.
Trump didn’t do this because he was really a Democrat, and his reversal of position on all of these issues doesn’t indicate he is now really a Republican. He is actually the Pillsbury Doughboy as he has always been (please see photo above).
He changes position and shape like malleable dough being prepared for diverse molds in a variety of baking pans. He adapts to the situation at hand to get the “deal” done. Donald Trump’s true ideology is the “Art of the Deal,” as he called his book, even though his co-author claims Trump didn’t write a single word of it. It does appear that Trump has read the book, though, as he cites its principles so often.
To get the “deal done” in American politics, Trump will have to move to the middle because that’s where deals are made. The middle is where consensus occurs. In business as in politics the parties often begin their negotiations with Trumpish bluster, threats and unreasonable demands. But in the end, for the deal to be done, compromise on both sides leads inexorably to the middle, which in politics is the moderate position. Trump would not have succeeded in business if he wasn’t well aware and adept at compromising to achieve his goals.
In American politics, there once were moderate Republicans known as “Rockefeller Republicans” later referred to more derisively as “RINOS” (Republicans in name only). Their Democrat counterparts were “Scoop Jackson” Democrats and “Blue Dog” Democrats. These breeds were to die off as the “tea party” Republicans took over the Republican Party, imposing conservative purity and strict religious belief requirements, while the “progressives” transformed the Democratic Party into something more Sandanista than Jacksonian.
Trump instinctively recognized that the American public was fed up with these extremes and yearned for a President who could get things done. He was elected not because of his personality and bombast, but in spite of it. Unlike other politicians, he was willing to say and do anything to persuade the old silent majority coalition that he was the man for the job.
In the end, his understanding of the business world will enable him to recognize that the road to presidential success lies in getting “the deal” done. And the deal lies in the dead center of American politics, the place where moderates live. The place where “Nothin says lovin like something from the oven.”
That’s why Trump will be in the Macy’s Parade. He’s the political equivalent of the Pillsbury Doughboy. And the American people pretty much all love hot rolls fresh from the oven. No gluten in New York, though. Happy Thanksgiving.