Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Making of Trump

AC/DC asked: “Who made who?” Well, let us ask today who made Trump? There are some interesting answers to be had here. I blame three groups.

Conservatives: The number one culprit, to be honest, is conservatives, and I don’t mean the current fringe which has only absconded with the label. No, they’re just sheep. What I’m talking about is actual conservatives... you and me. Yeah us. How did we do this?

Since the 1990s at least, we conservatives have been angered by a GOP that seemed to keep nominating people who didn’t share our values. Time and again, the GOP nominated people who favored liberal ideas, saw conservatism as a quaint theory that would never work in practice, and who longed to compromise to win the applause of a leftist establishment. There weren’t actually many of these people, but there were some prominent ones and we hated them. Indeed, we did our best to drive these people out of the party in the name of purity. We even had a name for these traitors – RINOs!

This impulse for purity, however, began the problem. First, it found a bullhorn on talk radio and later on the internet. Then it became dogma. Unfortunately, what conservatives didn’t understand was that this type of thinking was exclusionary, was based on anger, and had within it a natural tendency to keep getting more intolerant all the time.

Ronald Reagan had said, show me someone who agrees with me 80% of the time and I’ll show you someone I can worth with. What we were doing was saying, “You better agree with me 100% of the time or you’re a traitor and I’ll drive you from the party.” Enter litmus tests that involved constitutional changes and political suicide packs, and candidates swearing purity and savaging their opponents as disloyal. Conservatism shrank and got really, really angry as the need to drive out the traitors from our midsts became an obsession. Indeed, people who had been conservative champions only weeks before found themselves purged by smear campaigns, witch hunts, and whispers about a lack of purity.

This did three things which created Trump. First, it turned conservatives against the GOP establishment, which opened the door to an anti-conservative-establishment candidate. Secondly, it destroyed the ranks of potential conservative candidates because no serious or experienced candidate could pass the impossible purity test. Third, it rid conservatism of its intellectual foundations, which allowed Trump to sell anger rather than ideas. This is why a man who has no conservative credentials and who promises nothing conservative, could become the champion of modern conservatives and defeat people conservatives had been pining for as recently as the last election.

Liberals: The next culprit is liberals, specifically the liberals who “run” our culture. For some time now, conservatives have fled any occupation that influences the culture. This left liberals in charge. But liberals are stupid, obnoxious hypocrites, and the kind of culture they created reflects that. Hence, over the past few decades, we’ve seen our culture driven relentlessly toward the lowest common denominator. Enter Trump, who feels perfectly normal in a world of scripted “reality” programs about cat fights, a world of yo'-mama-so-fat contests, and a world of unfettered violence, swearing, kinky sex, and blowhardism. Trump, through his reality TV show and penchant for tabloidism, became the perfect representative of modern culture. This made Trump acceptable to the public, and it was a simple matter for him to make the jump to politics.

The Establishment: Finally, we come to the last suspect: the establishment. The establishment is the people who set up the current economic order. They replaced the free market with a social contract that traded power and wealth and influence (theirs) for economic and personal security along with an ever increasing sense of comfort (ours). To a degree, this worked swimmingly after World War II for several decades. But then it started to break. Check out these charts below.

What these charts show is that right now, corporate profits as a percentage of the economic pie are at an all-time high whereas wages as a percentage of the economic pie are at an all-time low. Said differently, while average Americans have been facing a steadily falling share of the nation’s wealth (and with it, their security and comfort) since the 1970s at least, corporate profits keep soaring. The result of this is that the public feels like “something is broken.” They can’t necessarily put their finger on what, but they know that things keep getting worse for them, while they are constantly told how things keep getting better for the glitterati. This really came to a head in 2008 when our elites shot themselves in the head with their economic gambling and then robbed us to bail themselves out.

But this goes beyond economics too. We’ve been promised security and comfort, yet we see 11 million illegals taking jobs and committing crimes without punishment. And when we complain, we are dismissed as racists and the establishment demands that more workers be allowed in. The establishment tells us never to link Islamic terrorism to Islam, but sh*ts on Christianity. The establishment has responded to racial inequality by stoking the anger of all sides. They impose only environmental regulations that affect average people, protecting big business from change. They let minority voices bully majorities with the backing of law. Yet, they deny justice to average people. And they have elevated the elitist false-apology to a slap in the face... something which feels like corporate America waving their d*cks in our faces.

All of this has caused the anti-establishment mood to boom. Enter Trump, Sanders and whoever else promises to destroy the current order of things. To their supporters, it doesn’t really matter who these people are so long as they give the establishment nightmares.

This is what created Trump. The establishment broke the social contract and made it clear that our wishes, concerns, fears and needs mean nothing to them. They even seem to be rubbing it in people’s faces. Meanwhile, liberals guttered the culture to the point that a “vulgar” bully could be considered a hero. And conservatives reshaped the GOP to become a party of narrow-minded intolerants. These three things guaranteed a Trump. It just happens that Trump became Trump before some governor did it instead.



ArgentGale said...

This sounds spot on to me, though I don't have much else to add other than it's sad that it's come to this and I'm not sure how to turn this around or even if it's possible to do so.

- Daniel

LL said...

If a governor/senator had 'spoken to America' rather than reciting talking points and pandered other politically correct progressive language, they would have connected the way that Trump did. As it was , they relied on canned talking points, reciting polemics/sermons, and making promises that they had no intention of keeping (true to political behavior). The option of clear speech to Americans and clear and unequivocal resolve to deal with the problems that we face was open to other politicians and they didn't chose to present themselves that way. Trump did and the elite howled, openly preferring a Hillary (who can be bought) to the unpredictable billionaire.

tryanmax said...

I think it's worth pointing out that your Establishment is not synonymous with the one the talk-radio syndicate is always railing against. If the Establishment were merely the ruling-wing of the Republican party, we wouldn't be in this mess. The only thing that group has managed to accomplish is taking the blame for a century of Democrat governance.

AndrewPrice said...

Daniel, Turning it around is the question. I would recommend this.

1. Conservatives need to create a new agenda for the common man (like I said in my policy book). The idea would be to win over groups who are not part of the Trump world -- non-angry white men, women, married minorities, college students, etc. These people would far outnumber both the Trumpsters and the Democrats and, I think, would easily become a rather sane majority party.

The key is to offer an agenda that apolitical people instantly recognize as meant to bolster the lives and fortunes of middle class people.

First, it needs to avoid anger and controversial issues... officially ignore abortion, accept gay marriage/gay rights, explicitly reject the hard-core ideas of the -isms (feminism, environmentalism, etc.), be vague on immigration (we want our borders secured for security reasons, but we believe in a path to citizenship, but we oppose importing foreigners to take American jobs and outsourcing -- so promise to tighten the work visa program and to end deductions for moving factories to foreign countries).

Then focus on creating jobs, helping people get better jobs, making investing fair, retirement planning, health care, improving schools, cleaning up the environment within reason, making college cheaper and better, lowering crime (particularly gun crime), etc. I would also promise a cut in the deduction for capital equipment along with a cut in the social security tax to make workers cheaper than technology. Plus, I would promise a shift to a property tax on property over a million in value to fund this stuff (so we start shifting away from income taxes to property taxes).

I would also toss in some anti-elite things. The property tax. Ending too big to fail. Shifting anti-trust laws to be more pro-consumer. Boosting criminal sanctions for large corporations that commit crimes. Ending public support for things billionaires/big business should be buying themselves (like NFL stadiums), etc.

2. On culture, we need to change two mindsets. First, conservatives need to stop fleeing the culture and get back into it. They need to become writers, directors, producers and start to impose their values on their work. There is a huge market for it, and the rest of Hollywood will copy their success.

Secondly, when I say impose our values, I mean creating a reasonable list of things we would like to see changed and then doing those within reason. For example, a producer might decide to stop including sex scenes or cut down on violence or show negative consequences of these things. They might ask a writer, can you do this without swearing? And they should seek to include more noble traits and stop glorifying assholism. Essentially, shift the world back from an R rating to a PG rating one project at a time, but without trying to change the overall content. That's where conservatives go wrong. They want everyone to like different things, so they get hung up on fighting porn and when they do something cultural they produce lame Jesus metaphors. That's a non-starter. What can be done, however, is a reintroduction of civility.

AndrewPrice said...

3. This is the hard one. This is where I think a shift to a property tax would be key, an end to the tax favoritism that equipment/technology gets over labor would help, improved education would help, and a general cleaning up of our laws to root out all the special favors the establishment has given themselves in our regulatory and tax schemes.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, I think that communication is always key, and has been especially so in this case. Whereas conservative intellectuals love to quote the ancient Greeks and speak in broad principles, Trump speaks the language of the people. And that makes them comfortable with him. He doesn't hedge his words like a corporate spokesman either. That makes him seem honest and different and relatable. Bill Clinton came across similarly versus the out-of-touch GW Bush.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Agreed, and thanks for pointing that out. I want to be clear about this. The GOP establishment has spend the past two decades racing to the right and trying to pander to its fringe, all the while never realizing that its fringe could not be placated. They are not THIS problem. Their problem is a lack of vision to keep their fringe from mattering.

The establishment I'm talking here about has no political party. They buy off both parties and get what they want at the regulatory level. Their representatives are the appointees, the lobbyists, the law firms, and the NGOs who snuggle up to government. They are the people who own most of the property in the US, whose lives exist in private clubs, sky boxes, and gated communities. They dominate the boards of the Fortune 500 companies and have multiple law firms on retainer. You see them at awards shows, talked about on the financial channel, and making the news when their yachts hit reefs or their kids fight over their massive inheritances.

And I'm not saying they are bad people. What I'm saying is that they are bad managers who have led the country wrong, and they have gotten greedy of late, which has destroyed the social contract and brought the middle class to the point of revolt.

BevfromNYC said...

Instead of calling them "The Establishment", let's call them "The Political Elite". And they ARE just as much "the lobbyists, the law firms, the NGO" and I add the Unions to that.

I will elaborate later. Btw, did anyone see the big doc drop called the Panama Papers?

ArgentGale said...

Again, well said and I believe that would be a great solution. My only concern about it is that it seems like the people who need to make these changes are hopelessly stuck on stupid and I have no idea what it's going to take to get them to snap out of it.

- Daniel

Anthony said...

I don't see much to be done about wages falling. Both globalization and mechanization are continuing apace and as we have discussed many times, both are hitting workers hard and will continue to hit them hard. Which isn't to say there those trends don't also benefit people (for example everyone has cheap but high quality cells phones and tvs made abroad) but it does hit workers harder than the capital class.

I agree with you that changing tax incentives can boost employment, but I'm not sure that such changes can help the overwhelming majority of the underemployed (being unemployed isn't something that happens long term in a lot of places if you are willing to take what you can get in the interim, but being underemployed is).

Of course, while life is tougher than ever for those who just kind of hope to live out their lives working for one company, climbing the corporate ladder up until retirement, thanks to modern technology there are more opportunities than ever for entrepreneurs in quite a few fields.

As for culture, as I've stated before, we have to agree to disagree. I think culture has opened up quite a bit but that is irreversible.

In the old days a couple corporations controlled what most of humanity was exposed to and governments kept a close eye on them, making sure they didn't go to far. Nowadays, its a free for all. That means that courser stuff than ever happens, but the only reason the course stuff does well is because that is what people want. Its worth noting that there is still a lot of good stuff with decent values being produced by pop culture.

I just played through Minecraft Story mode with my youngest (its a very kid friendly adventure game about friends who are trying to make the world a better place) and a lot of my gamer buddies online are raving about a game named Stardew Valley (in which you play a guy who takes up farming in small community).

So on the culture side I don't think things have gotten worse, I think more bad things are out there than ever before, but I'd say there is also more good things out there than ever before (a fine distinction, but a distinction nonetheless).

Anthony said...

*Sigh* I wrote 'course' when I meant to write 'coarse'. I've been up since three this morning (my work hours are both long and odd at the moment).

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Let me say two things.

First, you are right that nothing will "fix" the income issue because mechanization and globalization will not go away. That said, out tax code puts a bias in favor of capital equipment over labor, and I think that erasing that bias would help slow the problem and would provide more and better jobs. Ditto cutting tax breaks for outsourcing.

My second point is this. I think that a shift to an asset based tax would be huge in terms of fixing this. First, it would eliminate a massive tax burden that is placed on labor right now -- the income tax. It would also bring in a lot more in taxes than the current system while actually providing an incentive to create businesses rather than a disincentive (idle assets would decade quicker).

Most importantly, this shifts the burden of taxes to a tiny percentage of super rich while lifting it on working class people. That alone would go a long way toward curing the rising of populism.

AndrewPrice said...

Daniel, Honestly, they do all seem stuck on stupid. I'm not sure how to change that. The problem is that the people who need to step up to change it were all raised in the old GOP structure and they seem incapable of adapting to the new world.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I can go for that. I've heard about the Panama Papers, but I haven't followed it that closely.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Essentially, shift the world back from an R rating to a PG rating one project at a time, but without trying to change the overall content.

I understand the sentiment and, at times, I might even agree, but you don't want to go down that particular road, do you? Besides, as I always said at BH, just because a film doesn't have profanity, sex, etc. doesn't automatically make it family-friendly. And there are also plenty of conservatives who produce work that isn't for the kids. I figured you'd want to stay away from that particular stereotype (see: your recent article on Romney).

And as Anthony said above, the democratization of technology means there's a lot more coarse stuff out there, but there's a lot of great stuff out there, too.

(And personally, I'd focus on advertising and reality TV before something as arbitrary as movie ratings!) :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, My point is a little more subtle (I hope). What I'm saying is that it's a nonstarter to try to change the types of things people want. Trying to ban porn will not slow the demand for porn, nor will producing wholesome films mean that the public will switch over.

What I'm saying instead is to turn out high quality work in any number of genres, but to follow a sort of moral code or writer's code where you stop glorifying negative things. If the quality is high enough, and the market responds (as I think it will), then you will see a shift away from this stuff in Hollywood, which will result in a de-coarsening of the culture. Remember, most people live their lives according to the principle of monkey-see monkey-do, and if our culture machine starts turning out non-a-hole stuff, most people will change their behaviors accordingly.

Anyways, I'm not talking about banning anything, trying to ban anything, re-rating anything, etc. I'm talking about getting out there and making high quality stuff that succeeds without being coarse, and letting our copy-cat culture kick in an follow it.

Allena-C said...

Excellent analysis Andrew!
Neither Trump nor Sanders will actually solve any of the problems they say they will fix, but they have learned to tell their followers what they want to hear.
Kind of like the elitists they intend to replace, only they are better liars and they also know how to use fear and hate effectively.
Most people I know, who are all over the political spectrum are disgusted with all the hatemongering and fearmongering.
Whether from the old elite or new elite/establishment.

Allena-C said...

Andrew, I'll also add I like your solutions. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Allena! That's a good point to make clear as well. Just because I think Trump fits the public's demand at the moment doesn't mean he will actually be any good. To the contrary, he will likely only make things worse.

I'm glad you like the solutions. :)

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