Following Donald Trump’s surprising-to-many success on Election Day he must now transition from the campaign to his new role as President-elect of the United States. Along with this transition has come a small shift in narrative by the news media. Prior to last Tuesday, November the 8th, the major narrative surrounding the Trump campaign and Donald Trump himself was that they could not possibly be successful, Donald Trump cannot possibly win the election. He is racist. He is a bigot. He is sexist and misogynistic. He has little to no actual policy. What policy he does seem to have rapidly changes and would be disastrous according to experts. He may also hurt the national security of the United States. Or so went the narrative. Additionally, on top of all that his campaign was underfunded and mismanaged. Donald Trump couldn’t possibly win.
Donald Trump did win, and the narrative shifted. Not changed, just shifted. Donald Trump couldn’t possibly win the election, but he did, except now he has to be President. Donald Trump couldn’t possibly know how to be president. He is ignorant about what the president actually does. As is his transition team. A transition team he has had difficulty filling. A transition team already fighting over appointments He has already appeared to have softened his stances on a number of issues because he has realized his campaign positions are politically untenable. He is still fighting with the media, blaming them for their coverage of attacks of minorities perpetrated by Trump supporters. His temperament, predispositions and tendency to free-wheel are antithetical to the Office of the President. He wants his children to have top secret security clearance. He wants to keep a hand in running his businesses. He doesn’t even want to keep a full-time schedule in Washington, D.C. Or so the narrative goes.
If, unlike the election narrative, this new narrative proves to be true, what about those individuals already in government employ? The intelligence and subject matter experts. The Foreign Service Officers who work in U.S. embassies and consulates all over the world. The people who research, write, plan and implement federal legislation and programs. A bureaucracy which has grown in both size and influence. The thousands of career bureaucrats who truly run the dozens of government agencies and programs which comprise the U.S. federal government. The federal government of the United States cannot function without these individuals, and they cannot be replaced. Nor should they be if the knowledge of government possessed by Donald Trump and his administration is as lacking as portrayed.
These bureaucrats may have political beliefs and attitudes, but they are non-partisan. They work for the U.S. federal government, for their agency, not for a particular president or political party. They are not a part of Donald Trump’s transition to the White House. They will simply be in charge of following the Donald Trump White House. They will research, write, plan and implement the policies which emanate from the White House and Congress. However, given both the pre-election and post-election narratives as well as the fact that many of these bureaucrats do have their own political opinions, they may not necessarily be pleased with this turn of events and the fact they are subject to policy decisions and a president with which they fundamentally disagree.
The Concourse obtained an email which a State Department official working abroad sent to colleagues last week after the results of the election became clear:
“‘Although you signed up to be foreign service officers no matter which party took power (and there undoubtedly would have been a time when the Republicans held the White House), you didn’t sign up for the ignorant, misogynistic, homophobic, racist and fascist bullshit that Trump promulgated during his campaign. Stay true to your values; no job is worth violating basically held beliefs. If at any time you feel like you would breach your values, you should get out of the government.
‘That said, your presence — and that of the vast majority of FSOs and civil servants who also appreciate the diversity of humanity — could help anchor a Trump administration. You have experience and knowledge, and you can find yourself in a position where you can explain why potentially misguided policy won’t work. Find safe topics and areas where your thoughts overlap with the administration, and hunker down in those embassies and positions for the term. […]
‘The Iraq War under Bush was a disaster, and I struggled to reconcile Iraq, Guantanamo and waterboarding with my own values, and for the most part, I didn’t deal with them at all. I expect Trump will also have similar catastrophes (though at least he seems to recognize the Iraq War for the disaster that it was) that we may have to defend to the public. That’s not easy, and in fact can be painful. It’s strange and a little claustrophobic for Democrats under any Republican president, just as it has been for Republican FSOs under Obama. Colleagues will dodge any direct political expression until they know you well; conservatives will sycophantically praise the Administration; some FSOs will abandon their beliefs to flatter political appointees and jockey for promotion. You will likely be extremely careful what you say to whom, and feel people out until you’re comfortable enough to express yourself. But be mindful that many of your colleagues share your pain. You have likeminded friends everywhere in the State Department, as you saw from our glum faces at the election breakfast.
‘Finally, stay out of Washington as much as possible. It’s far more political than the embassies.
‘I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened last week, but I intend to continue to work in the State Department for at least the next four years. Unless anything happens that compels me to quit.'”
As described in this email, it would appear as though many employees of the U.S. federal government, who must work with Donald Trump and his administration, are as conflicted about the results of last week’s presidential election as many in the American public. They may be in charge of researching, planning, writing and implementing policies with which they do not agree. Foreign Service Officers may become part of foreign policy decisions and actions which they believe will fundamentally make the United States less safe. Yet this will be their job. A job which is necessary to the very functioning of the U.S. federal government.
A job which Donald Trump’s administration needs them to do well and provide their expertise to an administration which appears to be short on such. Or so the narrative goes.