Summary: Political gurus have mocked Trump, run silly pictures of him, and dissected his soundbites without finding the source of his appeal to so many voters. Now they’re descending into hysteria, surprised by his predictable primary wins. Instead let’s look at what he says. Surprisingly to those that rely on journalists for news, Trump says some sensible things with broad appeal — including a few that appeal to Left and Right. No matter if he wins or loses, 2016 might start a populist redefinition of America’s political coalitions. Whether for good or ill is up to us.
Since the foolish rebuttals have failed to derail Trump’s campaign (e.g., running silly pictures of Trump, mocking his soundbites while ignoring his policies, and stern condemnations), let’s try hearing what Trump says. Perhaps it might explain some of the popularity that has brought him so close to the GOP nomination — and so close to Hillary in the polls.
The CNN-Telemundo Republican Debate on February 25
Excerpts from the Washington Post’s transcript
Trump’s Opening: explaining his goals
My whole theme is make America great again. We don’t win anymore as a country. We don’t win with trade, we don’t win with the military. ISIS, we can’t even knock out ISIS … We don’t win in any capacity with healthcare. We have terrible health care … You look at our borders, they’re like swiss cheese, everybody pours in.
We’re going to make a great country again. We’re going to start winning again. We’re going to win a lot, it’s going to be a big difference, believe me. It’s going to be a big difference.
… I’ve been a big contributor to Israel over the years. I’ve received many, many awards from Israel. I have a great relationship with Israel. And I’m going to keep it that way. And if I could bring peace, that would be a fantastic thing. It would be one of my greatest achievements as president.
WaPo reporter Aaron Blake comments: “Trump’s heart didn’t seem to be in this. He almost seemed tired and bored of saying the same thing over and over again.” This probably reflects Blake’s boredom with such sentiments, instead of the trivia that excites sophisticates like him about soundbites, polls, and the horse-race.
Trump’s statement probably appeals to a wide range of Americans who remember post-WWII America. We helped win WWII and established the first international order based on law and justice (however imperfect). An America of rapid growth of GDP and education, improvement of civil rights, and bold ventures such as Apollo. We’ve lost all that (left and right miss different aspects, of course).
Caring for our fellow Americans
… the insurance companies take care of the politicians. The insurance companies get what they want. We should have gotten rid of the lines around each state so we can have real competition. We thought that was gone, we thought those lines were going to be gone, so something happened at the last moment where Obamacare got approved, and all of that was thrown out the window.
The reason is some of the people in the audience are insurance people, and insurance lobbyists, and special interests. … The insurance companies are making a fortune on every single thing they do. … That’s going to solve the problem.
That’s quite daft, of course. Pure conservative voodoo economics. But demonizing insurance companies is smart politics.
We’re going to have private health care, but I will not allow people to die on the sidewalks and the streets of our country if I’m president. You may let it and you may be fine with it … I’m not fine with it. We are going to take those people and those people are going to be serviced by doctors and hospitals. We’re going to make great deals on it, but we’re not going to let them die in the streets.
A rare show of humanity in a debate among heartless ideologues. If elected, will Trump act on his heart or his cold conservative ideology?
Because the country will become a dynamic economy. We’ll be dynamic again. If you look at what’s going on, we have the highest taxes anywhere in the world. We pay more business tax, we pay more personal tax. We have the highest taxes in the world.
It’s shutting off our economy. It’s shutting off our country. … Yes, we will do my tax plan, and it will be great. We will have a dynamic economy again.
A follow-up question…
- WOLF BLITZER: “The current deficit this year is $544 billion. Where are you going to come up with the money?”
- TRUMP: “Waste, fraud and abuse all over the place. Waste, fraud and abuse.”
Totally cracked on all levels, piling voodoo economics on top of errors. US personal taxes are lower than in most of our peers (although direct comparisons are difficult because governments provide different mixes of services). Taxes were higher in 1950-1980 when the US was growing faster. The US slowed from that average following the Reagan tax cuts, and slowed further after the Bush Jr tax cuts.
But this might be fiction that is popular with many voters after years of propaganda. If elected will Trump follow Reagan and Bush Jr, further wrecking the government’s solvency to cut taxes for the rich?
- HUGH HEWITT: “Are you going back on your commitment?”
- TRUMP: “No, I’m not. First of all, very few people listen to your radio show. That’s the good news.”
It’s a rare GOP candidate who defies right-wing radio talk show hosts. it’s the strength many Americans want in their President.
- CRUZ: “Donald, you can get back on your meds now.”
- TRUMP: “This is a lot of fun up here tonight, I have to tell you.”
- CRUZ: “Donald — Donald, relax.”
- TRUMP: “Go ahead. I’m relaxed. You’re the basket case.”
A pitiful display by Cruz. As I said last summer, these clowns do not have a prayer of defeating Trump if he executes an operationally skilled campaign. He has done so, and they don’t.
Settling the Middle East
I was the grand marshall down 5th Avenue a number of years ago for the Israeli Day Parade, I have very close ties to Israel. I’ve received the Tree of Life Award and many of the greatest awards given by Israel. As president, however, there’s nothing that I would rather do to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors generally. And I think it serves no purpose to say that you have a good guy and a bad guy.
Now, I may not be successful in doing it. It’s probably the toughest negotiation anywhere in the world of any kind. OK? But it doesn’t help if I start saying, “I am very pro-Israel, very pro, more than anybody on this stage.” But it doesn’t do any good to start demeaning the neighbors, because I would love to do something with regard to negotiating peace, finally, for Israel and for their neighbors.
And I can’t do that as well as a negotiator if I’m taking big, big sides. With that being said, I am totally pro-Israel.
That’s confused, but more sensible than the long-standing policy of the US — to support Israel as it slowly steals land from the Palestinians. Trump is following the precedent of Jimmy Carter that produced the historic Camp David Accords in 1978.
Should America be the world’s free police force?
We can no longer defend all of these countries, Japan, Germany, South Korea. … We defend all of these countries for peanuts. … We have to start getting reimbursed for taking care of the military services for all of these countries.
A clear statement of the obvious truth, a rare thing in American politics. This distinguishes Trump from the chattering dwarves on stage with him.
Admitting our failures after 9/11
We would be so much better off if Gadhafi were in charge right now. If these politicians went to the beach and didn’t do a thing, and we had Saddam Hussein and if we had Gadhafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, we’d be — at least they killed terrorists, all right?
And I’m not saying they were good because they were bad, they were really bad, but we don’t know what we’re getting. You look at Libya right now, ISIS, as we speak, is taking over their oil. As we speak, it’s a total mess. We would have been better off if the politicians took a day off instead of going into war.
That’s a rare anti-war statement by a mainstream GOP candidate. Trump boldly speaks the obvious truth about our interventions that have proved disastrous for the people of America, Libya, and Iraq. We cannot know what would have happened without our actions, but we should accept some responsibility for what we’ve done — and learn from it.
Trump’s ending remarks
Nobody knows politicians better than I do. They’re all talk, they’re no action, nothing gets done. I’ve watched it for years. Take a look at what’s happening to our country.
All of the things that I’ve been talking about, whether it’s trade, whether it’s building up our depleted military, whether it’s taking care of our vets, whether it’s getting rid of Common Core, which is a disaster, or knocking out Obamacare and coming up with something so much better, I will get it done. Politicians will never, ever get it done. And we will make America great again. Thank you.
People who believe that this man has low odds of beating Hillary Clinton are kidding themselves. Yet that has become the fallback myth of liberals who believed Trump could not win the GOP nomination (e.g., Jamie Boule at Slate). These serial errors result from an unwillingness to look at the resurgence of populism (warts and all), and the Trump’s skill at exploiting it.
Other posts about Trump & the new populism
See all posts about Trump and the New Populism, especially these…
- From March 2014: Stand by for political realignment in America!
- From August 2016: The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning.
- Important: Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary.
- Why the Outer Party hates Trump and will waste this opportunity for reform.
- Populism carries Trump to the nomination. He’s completed 1 of 4 steps to victory.