One of the many unprecedented things about the election of Donald Trump is what a black box he is. The day after the election, I pinned the following message at the top of my Twitter profile: "We still don't know what President Trump is going to do." And it's true: Trump likes being unpredictable. He thinks of himself first and foremost as a dealmaker, and one of his key dealmaking tactics is to keep as many options on the table as possible.
This is why watching who he appoints to various Cabinet positions is so important. They give us some flavor of what his administration is going to be like, and what his priorities might be. Speaking as someone who opposed Trump's candidacy from the start, I have to say, so far, I'm quite pleased with what I see when I read the tea leaves. Trump has made some very inspired appointments that probably no other president-elect would have made.
Let's review them:
Steven Mnuchin, treasury secretary. Mnuchin himself seems to be kind of a blank slate, an interchangeable Wall Street guy among Wall Street guys. But since his appointment, he's made all the right noises. Trump officially campaigned on a platform promising more of the same supply-side economics as every GOP candidate and administration, while speaking a very different language on the stump, one that promised an economic policy focused on the working and middle class. Whatever he believes in his heart of hearts, Mnuchin has been sounding more like the latter than the former. He has spoken about the importance of pro-family tax policy and maternity leave, and of a working-class agenda. On higher-income tax cuts, he has said he doesn't want to scrap them, speaking only of lowering rates while cutting exemptions, so that taxes would overall stay the same. (The math here is tricky, and it might not end up like he hopes. But, it's early, and the language is good, which is all one can hope for at this point.)