Trump: The Big Picture

Understanding the 2016 presidential election requires a willingness to look beyond conventional wisdom and the myriad of details to assess the fundamental change which it represents. This will be hard to do – particularly for liberals – because it requires challenging assumptions about the American people and acknowledgement of the change is contrary to the self interest of the Establishment – the media; academia; both political parties. Let’s try.

The Political Context

There is a bigger picture than Donald Trump. This tsunami has been building since 2010 when the over-reach of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid led to the Tea Party and a Republican gain of 63 House seats and six Senate seats. After the subsequent elections of 2012, 2014, and 2016, the Republicans now control some 240 House seats, 52 Senate seats, 33 governorships, 29 state attorneys general, and 66 of 99 state legislatures. They stand to gain more Senate seats in 2018, and to hold the House at least through 2020.

Most importantly, the last four national elections represent a fundamental realignment of the American political landscape. The Democrats are now the party of the economic and academic elites and the urban poor; the Republicans are the party of the middle class.  The Democrats are the party of coastal cities and Chicago; the Republicans are the party of middle America. The Democrats are bereft of young talent and ideas; the Republicans are the dynamic party, overflowing with talent and ideas.

Donald Trump won despite being a terribly personally flawed candidate, being badly outspent, and having virtually no conventional Get Out The Vote organization. Hillary Clinton was also a terribly flawed candidate, but she did have all of the conventional election levers going for her as well as the traditional media. Much will be written about whether this was a mandate, whether tactical decisions sunk the Clinton campaign, whether Trump’s use of social media represents a new generation of campaigning, and how the losers should act in a democracy, but it would be a mistake to focus on the campaigns rather than the economic and cultural forces driving the result.

With the selection of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and the (at least for the moment) unanimous support of Paul Ryan among the House Republican caucus, close cooperation on legislation is guaranteed. Change will be implemented.

The Economic Context

Democrats point to 80 months of job growth, and a strong stock market, but the great majority of Americans knew better. Real family income is well below a decade ago; public and private pensions do not work with interest rates near zero; a $20 trillion national debt is precarious; people want jobs and a better life for their kids rather than disability payments, food stamps, and more free stuff.

The primary consensus will be that “It’s the economy, stupid”, and that white working class America revolted for economic reasons. True, as far as it goes.

The Cultural Context

    Much is being made by the Left and the Establishment of the appointment of Steve Bannon, the Executive Editor of Breitbart News, as chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon is a hard working, smart guy – Virginia Tech/Georgetown/Harvard; Navy veteran; Goldman Sachs investment banker; Hollywood producer; entrepreneur; Trump campaign chairman. Those seeking to understand the full source of Trump’s strength and the direction of the administration would do well to study Bannon and Breitbart. There is reason for concern, but most of the criticism is Progressive hyperventilation.

First, spend some time on What you will find: articles and an editorial slant which you will not find on main stream media – liberal mayors vowing to defy Trump on sanctuary cities; protests in Greece against Barack Obama’s visit; German concerns about Islamic extremism; purging of lobbyists; rants by Harry Reid and John Dean. And what you will not find: Hillary’s basket of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic deplorables.

Second, a long March 29 Breitbart article, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” is required reading for anybody seriously trying to understand the movement which propelled Trump to the presidency. The “Alt-Right” is anathema to the progressive Left and to the establishment politicians of both parties; Breitbart is pilloried for providing a platform for the Alt-Right, and for daring to publish this explanation. The authors – one a gay Jew; the other the son of a Pakistani father – posit that there are four strains of the leaderless Alt-Right group which has been active in social media for the past year and has become the new liberal bogeyman:

– “Natural conservatives” who are motivated by traditional Western social values rather than economics;

– Intellectuals who argue that political correctness and hypocrisy have been used to create a one-sided dialogue about diversity, tolerance, and inclusion which marginalizes their interests and legitimacy;

– Young anti-establishment radicals on the Right who are challenging societal totems, for many of the same “fun” reasons that adolescent radicals of the Left did in the 60’s;

– A few “1488ers” (neo-Nazis; you have to read the article to understand the social media vernacular) who are largely shunned. These are similar to the Black Lives Matter elements who advocate killing cops or the real man-haters in the feminist movement.

Bannon – who views Brietbart as a platform for the Alt-Right – was selected to placate the cultural conservatives as Trump makes peace with the traditional Republican Party. More importantly, he provides evidence that Making America Great Again will not be simply an economic and military undertaking.

For the next several months there will be a lot of chatter about the transition. President Obama seems to accept the result; George Soros and his agglomeration of activist groups on the Left do not. By putting Mike Pence in charge of the transition, sacking Chris Christie and Mike Rogers, eliminating lobbyists, and asking Mitt Romney’s advice Trump has demonstrated that he will will act decisively, valuing advice from all quarters.  That is good. Thousands of senior Democrat department managers need to be replaced, Many lower level bureaucrats will not fit with an administration which is committed to less government. There will be testing – internal and external. The change will be real.


This week’s video is President Obama’s roast of Donald Trump at the 2011 National Press Club dinner – an event which helped propel the Donald to the presidency.  – 11/18/16


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