Sometimes, the themes underlying multiple topics seem to flow together. Such is the case with public distrust of government in the age of Obama, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s approach to building a shadow government for economic development purposes, and the rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.
Mario Loyola provides an excellent, read-the-whole-thing entry point to the themes of which I’m speaking:
The original Constitution left most government spending and regulation at the level of the states and let people and businesses choose among different jurisdictions. The competition for businesses and labor tends to keep both taxation and regulation low. The framework of interstate competition makes it very hard to sustain the perks and benefits that special interests are always pining for, usually in the form of protection from competition. …
… The phrase “race to the bottom” is progressives’ pejorative term for the race to the top in which both businesses and labor seek the optimum level of taxation and regulation among the states. So farm workers and union labor found a candidate — Franklin D. Roosevelt — who promised them a way to enjoy the protections and subsidies of anti-competitive cartels imposed by a government whose jurisdiction Americans could not choose to escape by right, namely the federal government. …
Loyola goes on to suggest that The People backed FDR “not realizing what was at stake.” By that he means, “as Richard Epstein has written, the purpose of the progressive’s rewriting of the Constitution [under the New Deal] was to ‘make the world safe for cartels.'”
Over the past week or two, I’ve been repeating the point that Governor Raimondo’s economic development plan, as evidenced by the mission of her chief innovation officer and the manner of his hiring and by the genesis and proposals of the Brookings Institution report, is essentially to create a cartel, with government as the decision maker. It’s a plan being developed by insiders, with all authority to act vested in insiders and guaranteed to serve the interests of insiders first.
Taking a charitable view, one can imagine that Governor Raimondo and her supporters see her approach simply as “getting it done.” The rules as written haven’t been working, so like President Obama, she’s going around the hindrances of our constitutional order and rule of law.
And that’s what Donald Trump will do. I noted the other day that people are to some degree abandoning principle, having seen how the game now works, having observed over decades (with escalation during the rise of Tea Party activism) how difficult it is to change things, and having decided that they’re tired of being beaten because they play the game as it’s supposed to be played while the opposition bends the rules. Andrew Klavan is right, though, when he suggests that the “Trumpians” are being had, just as the ordinary folks among progressives are being had by elite progressives.
See, the thing is: Trump is the establishment. Big government, crony capitalism, hard words and soft policy — he loves all the things they love. Yeah, he feels your rage — and he uses it to his advantage. He talks like you think but when it comes to what he does? He has a long history of helping one person and one person only. Guess his name.
More importantly, constitutional order and rule of law are there to help us, the powerless. America’s founding miracle was the odd set of circumstances that led our Founders actively to strive to design a system in which we could live by our own lights. Mongering in grievance and envy goes back to the Garden of Eden. We can always be manipulated by claims that we’re not getting our due. But when we stray from the rules that make us free out of fear that they also make people more powerful than us free, we don’t win. We never will. The masses are the dope in this big government game of special interest rope-a-dope.
If you want an example of how the rope swings around to wound our very own cause, follow the links starting with this Ed Driscoll post on Instapundit. The first stop is a post on the Conservative Treehouse about a “cold anger,” which the writer gives relevance with images weighing National Review’s anti-Trump issue against pictures of crowds gathered to hear Trump speak. That post links to an article on The Week by Michael Brendan Dougherty, who traces Trump’s campaign strategy back to unheeded advice that Samuel Francis (who was “something resembling an all-out white nationalist”) gave to Pat Buchanan some 20 years ago. This paragraph from Dougherty is quoted at the top of the “cold anger” post:
What so frightens the conservative movement about Trump’s success is that he reveals just how thin the support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institutions. It says the Republican Party doesn’t need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don’t need them, and you’re better off without them.
That conclusion is palpitates error. Support for conservatives’ ideas isn’t thin. Patience and trust for following their suggestions is, but again, it’s terribly dangerous to abandon them. Giving power to a strongman to get things done when the planners can’t is a marked and mapped stop on the road to serfdom, where the far left and the far right merge onto a highway to totalitarianism. The only variable up for grabs is which person the elite debases by having him whipped and which the elite debases by handing him the whip to do the dirty work.
What scares the conservative movement isn’t some sort of revelation about their own personal worth. What scares us is that maybe the American Founding really was an exceptional miracle that can neither be maintained in the long run nor repeated.
When I criticized Trump, in all his glory, for his manipulative 9/11 ploy during the most recent Republican debate, one local conservative told me that, as “a journalist,” I don’t have the right to analyze what people say and suggest how it ought to be understood and how people ought to react to it.