Friday, August 28, 2015

The third reason Trump is so interesting

I think we've covered 1. and 2.:

1. Trump has brought a gun to a knife fight and has no intention of politely turning it in at the door. The threat of a third party run on an anti-immigrant ticket gives him exceptional leverage.

2. Trump is willing to take extreme positions that appeal to the base and present them in unvarnished terms even when they are repugnant to the general population;

But we haven't said much about  this:

3. Trump is also just as willing to abandon conservative sacred cows if they aren't popular with the base. We've mentioned preserving Social Security benefits but this hasn't gotten a lot of attention:

From Bloomberg:
"I would change it. I would simplify it," Trump told hosts Mark Halperin and John Heilemann from the lobby of Trump Tower on New York's 5th Ave. Specifically, Trump targeted hedge fund profits, which are currently taxed at a lower rate than regular income.

"I would take carried interest out, and I would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars-a-year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it's outrageous," Trump said. "I want to lower taxes for the middle class."

Asked whether his proposed changes meant he was prepared to raise taxes on himself, the billionaire framed his answer in terms of fairness.

"That's right. That's right. I'm OK with it. You've seen my statements, I do very well, I don't mind paying some taxes. The middle class is getting clobbered in this country. You know the middle class built this country, not the hedge fund guys, but I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing and it's ridiculous, OK?" 
The underlying point I've been hammering away at in the naked emperor posts is that the political reporting of the mainstream press has become a mass of strange conventions and agreed-upon half-truths. It is not a robust system and Trump's campaign is applying stress from at least two different directions: when he rejects the Republican orthodoxy on taxes and Social Security, he points out how extreme those positions are; when he embraces popular positions within the base involving racism and xenophobia, he does it so openly  ("Obama is a Kenyan," "Mexicans are criminals.") that journalists can't spin it as anything but what it is.

p.s. I couldn't find a way to work in this very sharp analysis by Josh Marshall but you should read it anyway.


  1. Don't you hate it when Google eats a long comment?

  2. Mark:

    How do you think Trump compares to Huckabee a few years ago. Back when Huckabee was considered to have a chance and before he went off the deep end, he was supposed to be fitting into that elusive social-conservative, economic-moderate niche. Is the only difference that the media love to write about Trump, and he says he's willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars?

    1. My main interest in this story is the inconsistencies and ethical lapses of the press coverage. I don't want to get out of my depth in the political analysis. That said, as an old Arkansas boy, I do think I have a pretty good handle on Huck, so...

      Huck and Trump have a lot in common. Both are smart and media savvy and both may be running for president mostly as a branding exercise (particularly Huck) Both are intelligent enough to see the logic of the social-conservative, economic-moderate approach. (I've always found Huck hopelessly rapacious and devoid of character and ethics but he has remarkable political gifts)

      [there are important differences between the evangelical and xenophobe appeals but that's too much to go into here]

      One big difference is that Huck tried to make the social conservative position seem, if not convincing, then at least reasonable to the Daily Show crowd. Trump wants to say things that the base will find cathartic and the press will find quotable.

      But I suspect the bigger difference is the ability to self-finance. The anti-safety net position has always been for the benefit of the big Republican donors, not the base. Being able to write your own checks allows you to take more viable positions.

    2. Mark:

      Interesting point. Mitt Romney self-financed but of course he had traditional conservative economic policies. Jon Huntsman self-financed (or, at least, he had the ability to do so) but he was not a mold-breaker in the Trump mode.