We have had populists rise to the top of the American political system in the past. In each case, we saw a relationship between the man and the message. Take a look at the style and wealth of Eugene Debs, William Jennings Bryan, Henry Wallace, and Bernie Sanders. Their message was clear and no one doubted their sincerity.
It became hard to understand the commitment of a real estate millionaire to populist policies such as trade tariffs, more healthcare for the lower and middle classes, lower levels of immigration and less international engagement. Trump’s believers bought into the inconsistency because the man seemed so different from the standard polished lawyers who competed against him. They couldn’t be trusted/believed. Trump spoke his mind and had no history of flip-flopping on policy because he had never been a policy maker. The fact that his promises were altered to suit his audience never shook their faith.
Trump has abandoned all his populist positions in record time:
- Repeal and replace became – dump coverage for all those middle-class voters.
- China (and India and Mexico) were not declared to be currency manipulators as promised, and his talks with the leaders of Japan and China seem to be warm and fuzzy. Wasn’t China our economic archenemy?
- The tax bill that was to include a Border Tax Adjustment seems to be dying as the retail industry gets its way.
- No NATO countries are being asked to contribute more or raise their level of defense spending.
- NAFTA cancellation has become NAFTA renegotiation – light.
- Where’s the wall?
He seems to need love from whoever is in the room more than the satisfaction of actually doing anything he promised. There are always far more people in the room who favor corporate interests over those of the people. That was supposed to be the problem he was going to change. As we watch the demise of Steve Bannon and the rise of Xi Jinping and Jared Kushner we are watching the logical failure of a millionaire who never believed in the cause.
You can tell by how Bernie Sanders combs his hair, that he is a true believer. No one can doubt that when confronted by Wall Street lobbyists he would be deaf to their remonstrations. Trump says he wants to make deals. Did it occur to anyone that blowing up a trading relationship is the opposite of a deal? China will always offer us a “good” deal. After all, they just want to sell us cheap stuff. It will be far easier for Trump to take the easy path.
Inertia is powerful.
The question then becomes – when do his supporters realize they have been had? Do they maintain hope because of his unconventional (moronic) approach/appearance? How will he defend his failure to deliver on anything other than a bombing raid in Syria which is exactly the sort of thing his voters really don’t care about?
The conventional forces of the Washington political quagmire are taking hold – they have sucked this neophyte into their black hole of dysfunction and failure.