In response to an FT article by Martin Wolf on 2nd May 2017, entitled ‘Donald Trump’s pluto populism laid bare’:
Note: The New Statesman used the concept of 'pluto-populism' to describe Trump in July last year, just after he won the nomination:
“The first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency have brought some good news and some bad news. The good news is that, albeit chaotically, he is governing more as an orthodox post-Reagan Republican than most expected. The bad news is that he is governing more as an orthodox Republican than most expected. This now seems true in all the main policy areas, both domestic and international. It is clearly true in economic policy.
The idea of rebuilding US infrastructure has faded. The trade protectionism looks half-hearted. But deregulation is still an objective. So is tax reform, with the familiar combination of unfunded giveaways and magical thinking on deficits. Mr Trump’s policies look ever more like Reagan’s, but from a more unfavourable starting point…
…Mr Trump won the nomination by promising to be a different sort of Republican. He is not. What he has achieved is to make the “bait and switch” yet more obvious. Post-Reagan Republicans reached out to the base by campaigning on cultural issues, while legislating for the upper 1 per cent. That is “pluto-populism”. Mr Trump added infrastructure spending, trade protectionism and support for Medicare and social security. But he too plans to deliver for the top 1 per cent.
Pluto-populism is highly politically effective. But it works by making the base ever angrier and more desperate. That is playing with political fire. The republic may survive Mr Trump. But what comes after?” – Martin Wolf
Whether or not the concept of 'pluto-populism' is useful, and to a degree it is, I don't think it sheds much light on the underlying ‘dynamic’ that is unfolding, or the biggest danger in a Trump presidency.
Taking the underlying dynamic - 'pluto populism' misses the point. Whether we agree with them or not, electorates have been sending very loud signals for the past two years; and in the main the established parties and major political figures have shown us just how smart they really are…by totally missing the point…and attacking the symptoms rather than address the causes.
Trump represents a rejection of the ‘establishment’ – the cosy club of bankers and politicians who have presided over a massive transfer of wealth - who saved Wall Street and chucked Main Street under the bus. He also represented a rejection of military interventionism (That lasted well didn’t it? I’ll come back to that below). The point remains that the Republican establishment hated him just as vehemently as the Democrats, and almost as vehemently as the media…and the more hated he got, the more popular he got with the people who were saying ‘enough’…and still the message didn’t get through.
In short, Trump was, and still is in the minds of his many of his supporters, a rejection of the establishment. The Italian referendum, and the rise of a ‘comedian’ is a rejection of the establishment. So was Brexit. The fact that the two major French parties have just been handed their heads back in a basket, whilst the people choose between two ‘outsiders’ is more of the same.
It’s the system, which needs reform…not Donald Trump – he’s way past reform anyway.
As for governing like an orthodox post-Reagan Republican, are you kidding? He’s governing like his last two predecessors in one very important way – his ‘good intentions’ go out of the window when he gets in the White House. The reinstallation of Government Sachs may be the most obvious, but it is not the most dangerous. In my view, that accolade goes to his sudden conversion to military interventionism…as did his two predecessors:
Here is George W Bush on the campaign trail:
“I’m not sure the role of the United States is to go round the world saying this is the way it’s got to be…we stand alone in terms of power, so if we’re an arrogant nation they’ll view us that way, and if we’re a humble nation they’ll respect us…I don’t think our troops should be used for ‘nation building’…I’m concerned that we’re over-deployed around the world…I don’t want to be the world’s policeman, I want to be the world’s peace-maker…”
How did he get from those sentiments to declaring war on Iraq? And please don’t say 9/11 – those guys were primarily Saudis; they were led by a Saudi princeling, Bin Laden, who had been ‘used’ by the CIA to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the ‘war on terror’…and just in case anyone has forgotten…there were no WMD either. But Dubya invaded Iraq anyway.
Here is Barack Obama on the campaign trail:
“I will promise you this…that if we have not gotten our troops out (of Afghanistan) by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do, I will get our troops home, we will bring an end to this war…you can take that to the bank”
Never mind the Guantanamo fiasco, and the fact that the US is still in Afghanistan; how did he get from being that guy to the guy who turned Libya into a junkyard, who threatened to do the same to Syria? Maybe he had a ‘change of heart’? No…Obama’s heart was never in it; he wanted to be a saviour not a warlord. But he did it anyway…looking more remote and disconnected as each day passed.
And here is Donald Trump on the stump:
“We should work with any nation in the region that’s threatened by the rise of radical Islamic terrorism…we’re getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world. Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at the water’s edge”
Here’s a guy who came into office aching to ‘stick it’ to the establishment…aching to do it his way…and after less than 100 days in office, five days after announcing that ‘regime change’ is no longer the US goal in Syria, he does a 180 degree turn and does exactly what the establishment want him to do, exactly what his defeated opponent Hillary Clinton said he should do just hours before he fired the tomahawks…exactly what he promised his supporters he wouldn’t do…But he did it anyway.
It isn’t Trump’s economic policies that really scare me Mr Wolf. There are two things that are much scarier:
1. John McCain walking around with a smile on his face
2. The idiots on CNN, who clearly hate his guts, talking about how ‘presidential’ he is when he chucks his missiles out of the cot
America will survive his economic policies – there’s a pension crisis coming whatever he does…it’s the neocons around him that scare me.