Some Advice for Trump Appointees

As the old saying goes, the worst vice is advice. So with some trepidation, let me suggest two things that bright, idealistic members of the new administration should keep in mind.

The first arises when you’re asked by your boss to come up with a solution to some controversial political problem. You analyze the situation and come up with an effective plan. Then, however, you pull back from the audacity of the proposal and think, “If I suggest that, people will laugh.” So you water down the idea. But then your boss (also a newcomer to his administration job) makes the same calculus, and so on up the chain of command to the individual who can actually implement the plan. By that time, the “solution” is just a mild variant of the status quo, and the senior decision-maker wonders why she should take on a difficult political fight for such a small gain.

Your role in the new administration is to propose ways of restoring limited government – by privatization, deregulation, extending property rights, and taking on the vested policies of the past. If you punt on such issues, you add no value to the process. Let others simplify – or perhaps endorse – your best thoughts.

The second scenario, which often happens with higher-level appointees, is somewhat similar. You only have so much clout, and you recognize that you can’t do everything – you have to select your battles carefully. So you avoid a challenge, and then another, waiting for the right time to “take a stand.” And then four years have gone by and you’re back in the private sector. You had a chance to make a difference, but you failed to take it.

Changing the established policies that Progressives have advanced for the last century is not easy, but it can only be achieved if Trump appointees provide their best ideas and take the strongest stands. That may not be enough – you may well be laughed at on occasion, and you may fail. But you’ll return to the private sector with pride.

For more advice on specific policy proposals, see CEI’s series of policy briefs on First Steps for the Trump Administration.