When I was a youngster in my first professional job, my mentor asked what I wanted to be. What were my career goals? I told him I wanted to be a senior analyst.
“That’s it? Don’t you want to go into management?”
“No. Too much hassle. I never want to be in management.”
He turned to his work and mumbled to himself, “You will, when you see how stupid they are.”
I did go into management. I went far, but I didn’t reach the pinnacle. I never had the fire in the belly for unrelenting advancement.
Ty Cobb said, “I never could stand losing. Second place didn’t interest me. I had a fire in my belly.”
Donald Trump doesn’t like to lose either, but I don’t believe he had a true fire in the belly until after the 2011 White House Correspondence Dinner. Prior to that fateful night, Trump dabbled with running, like me with management. After the intentional humiliation by President Obama and a host of other speakers, an inferno took hold of his gut.
But how to win? I’m guessing Trump looked at progressives and saw them calling Americans racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, and downright mean. They were insulting anyone who disagreed with them for any reason. Trump probably giggled in delight. Heck, if insults work, he was the grand master. I’ll see your Islamaphobic, and raise you a “nasty woman.”
During the primaries, when straight-arrow Republicans wanted to demean Trump, they lectured him that he could not win the presidency with insults. Little did they know. Americans had had their fill of being insulted, marginalized, condescended to, and disregarded. To hell with the whole lot of them. Burn it down … and Trump’s the guy to do it.
But Trump didn’t just borrow the tactic of belittling opposition, he stole the whole progressive bag of tricks. Identity politics? Check. Fear mongering? Check. Media manipulation? Check. Isolationism? Check. Creative accounting for freebies? Check. Social Security and Medicare held sacrosanct? Check. Brazen denial in the face of documented proof of misdeeds? Check.
In other words, Donald Trump ran his campaign like a Democrat. That’s why the left has gone ballistic. How dare he? That’s our shtick. He was supposed to be the easy one to beat. The only Republican lower than Hillary. She was supposed to mop the floor with him. She was so confident that she took extended down time to count her ill gained loot.
But Trump didn’t rest. He had a firestorm gnawing at his gut. In the closing days, he did three to four rallies a day. He went to blue states and worked the working class like an evangelical at a tent revival. The working class. The property of the progressives. How dare he? He even made an earnest appeal to black Americans. Again, the property of the progressives. How dare he? He even eventually shattered the glass ceiling with a woman campaign manager—the first woman campaign manager of a winning presidential campaign. Take that progressives.
Donald Trump won using the campaign tactics of progressives. Will he govern as a progressive? Difficult to say at this point. Progressives fight to win control over process. Their time horizon is decades. Conservatives, on the other hand, fight to win the political battle of the moment. They’ll even sacrifice structural process for an immediate tactical win. Their time horizon is two years.
I can’t speak to his policies, but I hope Trump continues to adopt some progressive tactics. To drain the swamp for good, requires changing beltway processes, not new laws. He needs to change the way Washington works to get a better outcome.
If Trump aims long, he will indeed change the direction of the country.