President-elect Donald Trump,  walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. 
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

Trump sees US policymaking process as ‘archaic’ and ‘a bad thing’

Donald Trump conceded last week he’s surprised by the difficulties of the presidency. “This is more work than in my previous life,” the Republican told Reuters. “I thought it would be easier.”

Part of this extends from the fact that Trump knew very little about the job he sought, having no real sense of what a president does, but he’s also learning the basics of how a bill becomes a law – and he doesn’t seem to care for it. Here’s what the president told Fox News the other day:
“I understand what has to be done, I get things done I’ve always been a closer. We don’t have a lot of closers in politics and I understand why. It’s a very rough system, it’s an archaic system. You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House, bit the rule of the senate and some of the things you have to go through, it’s really a bad thing for the country in my opinion.

“There are archaic rules and maybe at some point, we’re going to have to take those rules on because for the good of the nation things are going to have to be different. You can’t go through a process like this. It’s not fair, it forces you to make bad decisions.”
He offered a similar assessment on “Face the Nation” yesterday, arguing, “I think the rules in Congress – and in particular the rules in the Senate – are unbelievably archaic and slow moving. And in many cases, unfair. In many cases, you’re forced to make deals that are not the deal you’d make. You’d make a much different kind of a deal. You’re forced into situations that you hate to be forced into.”

Trump’s frustrations are, to a degree, understandable. The legislative and policymaking process is difficult by design. There are any number of choke points, procedural hurdles, institutional checks, legal limits, and court interventions.

This is, however, a feature of the American system, not a bug. The process is arduous because it was created to be that way: the point has long been to prevent reckless policymaking by having a system that’s slow and demanding.

There’s room for debate about whether some procedural reforms would be beneficial, and whether some existing checks have been abused to a dangerous degree. I’m just not sure if Donald Trump is the best messenger for this message.

The president does, after all, have some unsettling authoritarian instincts. Trump attacks the free press as a national enemy; he questions the legitimacy of American courts; and he praises foreign dictators and autocrats.

It’s against this backdrop that the president also criticizes how a bill becomes a law, describing the system as “a bad thing” that “we” may have to change in order to make the system – and in context, Trump almost certainly means a more efficient system for himself and his party.