Trump Populism Has Won the GOP Civil War? Not a Chance
I’m puzzled by the claims we’ve heard in the media all day, triggered by the retreats of establishment conservative senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, that Trump “populists” have won the GOP civil war.
While Roy Moore did win his Alabama senate primary over Mitch McConnell ally Luther Strange, and Steve Bannon preens around the country urging aggression, most policy wins in DC now are for the establishment GOP’s base: corporate special interests.
The Trump administration’s regulatory rollback has represented a wholesale handover of policy to fossil fuel companies, banks, for-profit colleges, etc. The few pieces of legislation that have passed, such as Tuesday night’s overturning of the CFPB’s rule that would have protected the right of consumers to sue financial institutions, favor big corporations, not Trump’s working and middle class supporters.
Trump did bury the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the Democratic candidates said they would, too — but NAFTA is still around. The GOP tax bill taking shape seems to favor the wealthy, as corporate lobbyists intensify their efforts, and Trump quickly abandons pledges to help the middle class. Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is, above all, a gain for big corporate interests in legal fights.
DC’s swamp, far from drained, is swampier than ever. And a group of new hateful “populist” senators like Moore won’t change the equation. They may join Trump in hating on LGBT, Muslim, and immigrant communities, supporting Nazi-Klan marches, railing at Colin Kaepernick, and opposing abortion rights, but they won’t halt the shift of power favoring corporations and harming workers and families.
Donald Trump certainly gets things out of this arrangement. He gets to be the king on his own highly-rated reality show. He gets a big platform for his insults and attacks. He gets increased profits for his businesses through his corrupt emoluments. He gets revenge on President Obama for roasting him at the correspondents’ dinner and on the Clintons for not inviting him to Chelsea’s wedding. Trump doesn’t care if he loses the policy wars, because, as he demonstrates each day, he stands for nothing other than his own self-aggrandizement.
But the working people who supported Trump did want something tangible, and all they get is some bigoted red meat, to the extent that some of them want that — and many don’t. Working people are getting just about nothing in terms of jobs, or education, or better health care, or improvements to their financial futures. (There are but 75,000 coal jobs in the U.S., and Trump’s rejection of climate change policies won’t re-open any mines.)
The real winners are the super-rich: the Koch brothers, Goldman Sachs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — all the big companies, special interest groups, DC lobbyists. And, in truth, the other real winner is Mitch McConnell, who will tolerate the disgraceful Trump so long as Trump doesn’t prevent him from delivering for the GOP’s special interest donor base.
In terms of controlling policy, Trump, at least for now, is a sideshow. And his grassroots fans, at least so far, are losing badly.
This article also appears on HuffPost.