Trump wins because he says some sensible things which journalists can’t conceal

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.

Donald Trump with American flag
By Ethan Miller; Getty Images.

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?

Tax cuts!

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?

Standing tall

  • 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…

For More Information

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23 thoughts on “Trump wins because he says some sensible things which journalists can’t conceal”

  1. Very astute analysis. I think so many people are so fed up with “same ol same ol” that enough are ready to toss the dice on Trump. They’ve looked at the past and made a rational decision that maybe choosing the crazy choice isn’t really that crazy. Maybe it will result in something different, for a change. I think it’s pretty clear now that anyone disregards this is going to be disappointed in the result.

  2. Excellent analysis, among the best I’ve seen

    Folks Before Kochs” by Reihan Salam at Slate — “To save itself, the Republican Party must finally put the working class ahead of the donor class.” Excerpt:

    In the years since the financial crisis, populist insurgencies have devastated mainstream parties of the center right and center left in virtually every market democracy. Barack Obama’s rhetorical gifts mask the many ways in which he is a deeply conventional political figure, a man who trusts the wisdom of technocrats rather than seeking to overturn the established order. One could argue that the Obama presidency rescued America’s upper classes from a more ferocious post-crisis backlash, at least for a time. The twin insurgencies of Trump and Sanders demonstrate that the anger is still there — that it was just waiting for the right person to conjure it up. What separates the two politicians is that Sanders is in tune with the ideological orthodoxies of the left while Trump has no regard for those of the right. This iconoclasm is one of the sources of his power.

    More than anything else, Trump has demonstrated that white working-class voters have minds of their own. They will not simply line up behind the candidates selected for them by hedge-funders and industrialists during the “invisible primary.” If we define working-class voters as those without a college degree, Ronald Brownstein of the Atlantic estimates that this bloc represents 53% of Republicans, split almost evenly between those who are conservative Christians and those who are not. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2012, 53% of Republicans were part of families that earned less than $75,000 a year. These groups, which tend to overlap, are Donald Trump’s base. Ever since the Nixon era, Republicans have relied on the white working class to achieve political victories. Now, it has revolted against the GOP elite.

    Why wouldn’t they be furious? The Republican failure to defend the interests of working-class voters, and to speak to their hopes and fears, has made Trump’s authoritarianism dangerously alluring. Trump recognized that elite Republicans — a group rooted in affluent coastal metropolises and dominated by members of the credentialed upper middle class, which has shielded itself from the social and economic devastation that has wreaked such havoc in less-privileged corners of the country — often fall prey to wishful thinking about the rank-and-file voters who actually elect GOP candidates. They imagine that working- and middle-class conservatives are passionately devoted to the things they care about — tax cuts and entitlement reform — when these voters are far more passionate about other issues: economic nationalism, limits on less-skilled immigration, and minimum-wage hikes.

    Having recognized this chasm separating the Republican donor class from the grassroots, Trump has exploited it brilliantly. He has defended entitlement programs, and he has bashed bankers. He has defied the elite consensus on trade and immigration. He is channeling the Republican id, and in doing so he may have already dashed conservative hopes of winning the White House. Why can’t his GOP opponents convince Republican voters that they would do a far better job than Trump of defending middle-class economic interests? The answer is that they are trapped by the delusions of the donor class, and they can’t break free.

    Note that even so Salam cannot bring himself to actually describe Trump’s policies. All he can do is denounce them as “authoratarian”, with this daft summary:

    “Trump has built his campaign around the promise of an unlimited government that will solve every problem that ails America, provided it is fully under his command.”

    That’s as true of Trump’s policies as it was of FDR’s or Obama’s (i.e., wild exaggeration). It’s the typical nonsense establishment voices use to condemn populists going back to William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

  3. Typical establishment denunciations of Trump

    Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein monster. Now he’s strong enough to destroy the party.” by Robert Kagan (Brookings Inst), WaPo op-ed, 25 Feb 2016.

    Sad that they think many are listening to their discredited voices.The end is the key part, showing how Trump and Sanders have reveal the real two parties: the establishment and everybody else (being still divided, but perhaps not forever):

    “So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.”

  4. Trump and a bit Sanders, have started a Conversation. The longer the conversation goes on the more reality will be revealed. The more that happens the better the prospects are in general, for a reframing of the future conversations. And this has the potential to Engage people too in some seldom seen ways.
    Voting this year? Voting in the upcoming midterms? Democracies are very resistant to change but trends can be nudged along and then one day …voila…changes!
    This concept of an “Establishment” is quite amorphous when the economy is so stagnant. You can be in it one year and out of it the next. ;-)

    Good stuff we get access to here.


    1. Breton,

      ‘This concept of an “Establishment” is quite amorphous when the economy is so stagnant. You can be in it one year and out of it the next.”

      Not so. Wikipedia gives the standard sociological definition:

      “The Establishment generally denotes a dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation or organization. The Establishment may be a closed social group which selects its own members (as opposed to selection by merit or election) or specific entrenched elite structures, either in government or in specific institutions.”

      Such groups in major nations are quite stable, although their power varies over time. The English aristocracy has remained in power for centuries due to its combination of wealth and control of social and political power. Large-scale change in the establishment’s power is quite rare, occurring only only once or twice per century.

  5. Good one. Clarification so noted.
    I was using the word a bit more broadly for discussion of the Conversation and those listening etc.


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  7. Defending these countries for peanuts? We don’t ‘defend’ anyone ‘for peanuts’. We do so for our national interests. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t paying attention. Nice try, Mr. T. Nice try.

    If he has a chance vs. Hillary or those on the right, this part of the discussion misses big time. It’s not about them at all.

    1. Danny,

      “We don’t ‘defend’ anyone ‘for peanuts’.”

      False. We do charge our rich allies for some of the cost of defending them. Just not much.

      Also, your logic is odd. Since they are receiving some of the benefits of our actions, they should pay some of the cost. Just because we derive some benefit does not mean that we should bear the full cost.

      1. Editor,

        Please reread my words. All of them.

        Donald’s words: “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.”

        We don’t defend any country out there in which our national interests are not the top priority. Our involvement in those countries mentioned (and others not) is for our purposes first. “Some benefit”? If their defense was not in our national interest we would not be there at all. Dollars were not part of my initial comment. But what is the value of our national interests? And what might the cost be of us not being located in S. Korea (for example)?

        As stated initially. The defense of these other countries is not about them. You know that and anyone we hire as president should also. And I think he does, this was just bait to attract a certain type of potential voter.

      2. Danny,

        You have completely ignored what I said. My comments are in accord with most analysis of our international defense policy. Repeating what you said does not make it more logical.

        “Dollars were not part of my initial comment”

        The cost of our defense commitments was the subject of Donald’s comments. Ignoring that our allies do pay for our troops in their nations does not make your logic stronger, or explain why they should not pay more.

        Please do not post another comment repeating your assertions a third time. Please post links to an actual geopolitical experts supporting your views, since you appear to believe that your is the obvious and consensus opinion.

      3. Editor,

        I fear you are ignoring the value of our national interests, and we do not defend any other nation if it’s not in our best interests. These facilities are “our defense commitments” as you stated in your chastisement of me. “Our” is the operative word. Should we evaluate size of commitment relative to it’s value to us? Absolutely. But this is about our interests (highly detailed below). One, other than us, might make an argument that some nations/locations have sufficient value to support our being ‘charged’ for their use. But that’s an entirely different can of worms.

        Locations shorten response times and associated costs.
        Cohesion with allies.
        Deterrence. (S. Korea might be a good example here)
        Training and learning.
        Proximity to trade avenues.
        Reduction of piracy.
        Humanitarian response.
        Regional Security.
        Not creating a vacuum for others to fill.

        “Value Perceptions and Priorities Are Critical to Posture Decisions

        There are some clear limits to how far consolidation in the U.S. overseas posture could be pursued, beyond which achieving national security goals and executing the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance would become untenable. There is a minimum threshold of foreign posture that the United States must retain. Beyond that, there is additional posture that is almost certainly advisable to retain or even add. As described in this chapter, there are a number of choices specific to each region, where different judgments could lead to differing calculations of the advisability of reductions, additions, or changes in the nature of posture. Again, the three illustrative postures presented in this report represent policy options, not right or wrong choices, because only the cost side of the equation can be determined with precision. Decisions will reflect judgments based on the perceived values of the competing goals—how they should be prioritized—and the degree to which overseas posture is perceived to advance those goals.” (Pg. 303/4–Rand)

        “U.S. forces will conduct a sustainable pace of presence operations abroad, including rotational deployments and bilateral and multilateral training exercises. These activities reinforce deterrence, help to build the capacity and competence of U.S., allied, and partner forces for internal and external defense, strengthen alliance cohesion, and increase U.S. influence. A reduction in resources will require innovative and creative solutions to maintain our support for allied and partner interoperability and building partner capacity. However, with reduced resources, thoughtful choices will need to be made regarding the location and frequency of these operations. ”

        I could go on, but …………

      4. Danny,

        “I fear you are ignoring the value of our national interests, and we do not defend any other nation if it’s not in our best interests. ”

        That’s a daft response to what I said. Too dumb to warrant reply. I’m moderating further comments by you.

      5. Danny,

        To repeat what I said: ” Since they are receiving some of the benefits of our actions, they should pay some of the cost. Just because we derive some benefit does not mean that we should bear the full cost.”

        You oddly interpreted this to mean that I said “we derive few or no benefits from our overseas deployments.” That’s quite a reading FAIL.

  8. “Voodoo Economics” is a contortion of Milton Friedman’s argument about “optimal taxation.” What Friedman rightly observed, post 1934, was that very high marginal income tax rates brought in no higher revenue in REAL economic terms. You can’t say higher rates are associated with higher growth because there were so many deductions and ways to offshore income. Certainly, higher rates “de jure,” but not “de facto.”

    So, the argument is to lower rates, and almost entirely eliminate deductions. This has worked so well, it has BACKFIRED – as far and increasing the reporting of high earners from the “offshore” shadows. So, if you eliminate deductions, based on history, a 25% top marginal rate should be optimal, but Friedman mentioned rates as low as 16%.

    Many supply siders are making a completely different argument – disregarding the above.

    1. Johannn,

      I cannot make heads or tails out of what you are saying. You do not appear to be seeing any actual effects of the Reagan and Bush Jr tax cuts.

      “You can’t say higher rates are associated with higher growth because there were so many deductions…”

      By “rates” consider net rates of taxation — after deductions. Lower net rates have decreased the resulting tax revenue AND failed to produce the higher growth rates promised.

      “So, the argument is to lower rates, and almost entirely eliminate deductions. This has worked so well, it has BACKFIRED – as far and increasing the reporting of high earners from the “offshore” shadows.”

      It was failed by the simple test of producing less revenue — hence higher deficits.

  9. You are correct on “net” or “effective” rates of taxation after all legal loopholes etc. – which is WHY in “effect” Friedman determined you could have a top marginal rate of 16-25%, or even a flat one, considering payroll taxes are really income taxes.

    Having even a top 70% rate with all the legal garbage ends up with Nixon signing the Alternative Minimum Tax, due to many top earners paying nothing previously.

    Not only there is a cost to collecting taxes, there is the inevitable offshoring and lack of reporting. As rates come down, it is no longer profitable to hire lawyers to conceal the income – skewing “income inequality rates.”

    In REAL TERMS, meaning revenue as a % of GDP, income tax receipts fluctuate more with economic growth than changing legislation – at the COST of less income being legally reported.

    In short, there is a supply and demand to taxation – it is NOT an accounting problem, but an economic one.

      1. Johann,

        Those child-like absolutes are totally irrelevant to this discussion. The available evidence is that the inflection point of the Laffer curve is quite high. So the Reagan and Bush Jr tax cuts resulted — as experts predicted — in large revenue losses.

        It’s a tribute to modern propaganda methods that these decade-old facts are still disputed.

  10. The “absolutes” are a thought exercise to illustrate the argument that tax collecting is not entirely a matter of accounting, but a matter of economics. In economics, nominal means something, but REAL (a number relative to something else) terms mean more – that is my argument.

    Accept the REAL versus nominal distinction, or, in other words, the economic vs. accounting distinction.

    If not, I respectfully rest my case.

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