“Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism,” says Walter Sobchak to his bowling teammate/best friend/anti-hero, The Dude, in the Coen Brothers’ classic The Big Lebowski, “at least it’s an ethos.”
Let’s be perfectly clear – because these days it’s simply prudent to do so, and such comparisons are thrown around all too readily without any grounding in historical context – I’m not comparing Donald Trump and Trumpism to Adolf Hitler and Nazism.
I am comparing him and his movement to Uli Kunkel, Kieffer, and Franz, the nihilists who the “all-in” Sobchak eventually disparages for their lack of guiding beliefs.
We are indeed witnessing the evolution – or as one high-level Republican pollster I know would call it, the “devolution” – of the Grand Old Party’s animating conservatism into a much more malign set of grievances held together by the strap of The Donald.
Here, there is no ideology – no “ethos” – only the whims of a narcissistic, impulsive reality TV star with a decidedly mixed record as a real estate developer/dealmaker.
During his speech yesterday to the Economic Club of Detroit, Trump stitched together a patchwork of standard regulatory relief/small-government policy positions with anti-free trade rhetoric and subtle appeals to blue-collar populism.
Traditional Republicans will appreciate the proposed moratorium on new financial regulation, though Trump has previously called for the repeal of Dodd-Frank.
Does this moratorium prevent positive changes to financial regulation, such as more subtle treatment of community and regional banks?
They’ll also enjoy his proposal to repeal the estate tax, known on the right as the “death tax.” But how do they feel about his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Will they turn out for the elimination of special tax treatment for carried-interest income at private-equity firms and other investment firms?
Along with his nativism, this is a set of policies driven by one thing: the aggrandizement of Donald Trump.
As Dan McLaughlin elucidated in a post to The National Review’s blog, The Corner, it’s difficult to define “Trumpism.”
“Trump, after all, is himself hard to define on a lot of issues, and his views on them are often not very thought-out. And many of the things his fans defend about Trump may not actually be characteristics they would want in a future candidate,” explained McLaughlin.
But McLaughlin identifies consistent strains that at least put some shape around Trumpism.
Among them: anti-immigration sentiment, hostility to free trade, skepticism about foreign alliances and foreign intervention, opposition to entitlement reform, tendency to bombast, aversion to politesse, anti-intellectualism, inherently confrontational, in favor of division along racial and religious lines, and less interested in matters of liberty of conscience.
These are the contours of a nativist bend that’s long been present in American politics, brought to the surface due to widespread dissatisfaction with the Wall Street/Washington, D.C./Mainstream Media power nexus.
Recent polling – most importantly the data from critical states such as Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania – strongly suggest that this current cult of personality is doomed to failure in a general election.
And how about Trump’s opponent, the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton?
The former First Lady/New York Senator/Secretary of State has an impressive collection of “formers.” Not everybody will be impressed, but she’s been “in the arena,” to borrow Nixon’s phrase, for decades, taking heat from all sides.
She’s nothing if not a survivor.
For the moment, Hillary Clinton has traded Washington Consensus Neoliberalism for traditional Big State Liberalism.
She’s more likely to govern in line with the former. And at least it’s an ethos.
If nothing else, Clinton will be a competent custodian of the American Empire, her current pivot toward Bernie Sanders supporters notwithstanding.
But neither is Hillary Clinton – nor Barack Obama, for that matter – comparable to Adolf Hitler. Only Hitler was Hitler.
That’s why Republican elected officials, including one sitting Congressman, Richard Hanna from Michigan, and a former Governor, William Milliken, also, coincidentally, from Michigan, are endorsing the Democrat.
Wall Street is voting with its financial heft.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the financial industry has donated more than $41 million to Clinton and the political-action committees that support her. Trump’s gotten a little more than $100,000.
Her Empire bona fides are indeed established by endorsements from Robert Kagan, a prominent “neocon,” and old-school members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, including Brent Scowcroft and Richard Armitage.
If you approve of the way that American power has extended around the world during the post-Cold War era, Hillary Clinton is your candidate.
Let’s not get carried away by these expressions: In a binary system such as ours, where the first candidate past the post wins, you’re faced with a choice between two candidates.
And the Establishment is embracing Clinton because she’s not Trump.
Now, Wall Street Daily’s big-picture focus is on innovation in all its forms. So we’re forward-looking – and optimistic, even – by nature.
We inquire with skepticism when it comes to separating mere ideas from technologies that will break through, establish a market, and generate revenue and earnings.
But we come from a place of wonder about innovators, the work they do, and the way they operate within their disciplines, seemingly without regard to concepts such as “big government,” or even regulation.
Of course, we strive to understand the world around us. And politics is part of that world.
George Bernard Shaw observed: “Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
There are common individuals and corporations alike that are dissatisfied with our system, a demonstration that “the mechanisms of this democracy have been corrupted by the forces of power and information asymmetry,” according to Adam Johnson of AlterNet.
But a 2014 study, published by two Princeton researchers, concluded that “the preferences of economic elites” have “far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of the average citizens do.”
This is the best explanation why Hillary Clinton will, ultimately, be the next president of the United States.
This Week In…
“The concept of jealousy is as old as modern humanity itself and has permeated our culture worldwide. We are advised not to brag too much, for it can evoke feelings of envy and jealousy in others. Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and other religions all have at least one cautionary tale about the destructive consequences of being captivated by these emotions, as well as the dangers of being the one who is envied.”
Editorial Director, Wall Street Daily