Sometimes Trump Actually Does What He Wants
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is a billionaire who made his fortune investing in failing American steel and manufacturing companies and then selling them at a profit. He naturally favors using federal trade policy to give an artificial short-term boost to American steel and manufacturing. After all, while tariffs will ultimately devastate the U.S. economy, workers, and middle class, he gets richer.
This is crony capitalism, an oligarchical principle of life and trade that Ross shares with his weak sister (aka fearless leader) Donald Trump. Throughout his life, and even during his presidential campaign, Trump boasted of his bald-faced financial pay-offs to politicians who could help his business interests. Crony capitalism was thus his primary defense of his long-term history of major donations to some of the more vile Democratic politicians, such as Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer, and Hillary Clinton. “I’m a businessman, and that’s what businessmen do,” he would frequently say, an unwitting self-condemnation echoed proudly, and without an ounce of irony or understanding, by his dimwitted hordes, i.e., the victims of such oligarchical machinations.
Popular commentators who continue to play the childish game of “Good Trump, Bad Trump” — which in fact is nothing but a very Trump-style effort to stay “relevant” to both Trump’s populist supporters and his conservative opponents — are calling “Bad Trump” today, as the president has announced massive tariffs against several of America’s major trading partners and closest political allies.
The problem with “Good Trump, Bad Trump,” however, is that what these too-clever-by-half commentators are choosing to overlook is that “Good Trump” is merely their label for anything Trump does that does not comport with his actual wishes and intentions, but seems more like an attempt to curry favor with conservatives during times of scandal and controversy. “Bad Trump,” by and large, is just Trump’s genuine preference, stripped of any cynical calculations of “audience demand.”
Even a cursory glance through Trump’s history of public statements and political advocacy demonstrates beyond any doubt that Trump has been most consistent in the following positions:
- He advocates tariffs, because he sees trade wars as effective political weapons, and also because he honestly believes protectionism is an effective way to please the American “working class,” which he has always seen as his chief fan base, both as an entertainer and as a politician. (I say “to please” the working class rather than “to help” them, because for Trump, every choice is judged good or bad on the basis of what it can do to increase his fame and adulation.) In terms of practical effects, he strategizes exactly the same way Bernie Sanders does.
- He is a strong advocate of socialized medicine, far to the left of either Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s official public position on the issue, which means he unthinkingly accepts the principle that private citizens are essentially property of the State.
- He has no reservations about exploiting any government manipulation of the market to achieve a desired effect, regardless of whether there is any historical evidence of such manipulation having actually had such an effect; Trump’s advocacy of such government manipulation includes, but is not limited to, supporting a direct government takeover of the banking industry (as he did during the 2008 financial crisis), using eminent domain laws to favor corporate interests over private citizens, and using presidential authority to bully companies into limiting their foreign investment.
- He admires tyrants and thugs worldwide, seeing political leaders as TV celebrities, and therefore judging them by their “success” (i.e., ability to maintain power) rather than by their principles or legitimacy; hence, he will happily meet with any tyrant, sign away the future of any population, in the name of forming “friendships” with any murderous vermin who happen to have titles such as “President” or “Chairman” in front of their names.
- He is, and always has been, a progressive on moral issues, economic issues, and political issues; he is not, and never has been, a conservative in any of these areas.
“Bad Trump,” in other words, is just Trump. “Good Trump,” by contrast, is what he feels obliged to do, against his real interests or previous beliefs, to please his audience. That he is willing to do so many of the things the cynical commentators label “Good Trump” is actually evidence of how unprincipled and self-absorbed he is. And that is no small point. For as I have noted before, Trump’s model of a successful president, and his oft-stated favorite president, is his friend Bill Clinton, a man prepared to say anything and sell out anyone in order to maintain his own popularity and dance around his opponents’ criticisms.
“Good Trump,” then, is just the Trumpy equivalent of the amoral smarminess that led a principled progressive like Christopher Hitchens to condemn Clinton in a book titled, No One Left to Lie To. That, on the flip side of the coin, is exactly where any sincere conservative or classical liberal ought to be today, and every day, with regard to Donald Trump.