Maggie Gallagher succinctly describes the Trump policy platform, inasmuch as it is possible to discern and predict:
Here is the new Party of Trump that we saw in this convention: liberal in expanding entitlements, pro-business in terms of tax and regulations, non-interventionist in foreign policy, socially center-left (with the possible, but only possible, exception of abortion).
Americans who pay attention to politics and policy tend to err, I think, in allowing themselves to be drawn toward the exchange of discrete, independent policies as a form of compromise. I give you this social policy; you give me that regulatory reform. That’s how we end up with a worst-of-all-possibilities mix of policies that, for example, encourages dependency while socializing the losses of major corporations, all to the benefit of the inside players who are well positioned to manipulate the system to serve their interests.
Broadly speaking, policies are components of a machine that have to work together, with a basic operating principle. As the most-charitable interpretation, the machine that Gallagher describes is designed to drive corporations forward in order to generate enough wealth for government to redistribute as a means of providing comfort and accommodating the consequences of an anything-goes society, with the world blocked out at the borders and not engaged in socio-political terms so as to avoid bleeding of the wealth. (The only difference between that vision and a fully progressive one is that progressives don’t want the machine to be independent, but to be plugged in as a component of a bigger, international machine.)
Put that way (again, most charitably), Trumpian nationalism doesn’t sound too bad. Unfortunately, the lesson of the past few decades (at least) is that the machine doesn’t work. The corporations recalculate to the reality that the politicians’ plan makes them (not the people) the engine of the whole machine, while the value of promising entitlements leads politicians to over-promise and the people to over-demand, particularly in response to the consequences of loose culture, while the world outside the borders erodes the supports of our society and allows implacable enemies to rally.
Now add in the stated intention of Donald Trump to actively agitate against members of his own political party because they show insufficient fealty, and the policy mix points toward disaster. The aphorism that “success is the best revenge” is apparently not good enough for Trump. More than that, though, from his late-night tweets about the pope to this planned attack on Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and some unnamed foe, Trump shows no realization that these leaders have supporters. Trump is free not to respect Pope Francis, but his behavior shows that he has little concern for the vast world of Roman Catholics. His own supporters Trump loves, and he’s happy to condescend to them; those who aren’t his supporters are either enemies or inconsequential.
Nobody should have any trust that they’ll continue to have Trump’s support starting the moment their interests conflict with his, and that has implications for the instructions he’ll attempt to give the machine.
Yes, one of the very few arguments in favor of a Trump presidency is that he may remind certain sectors of American civic society about the importance of the checks and balances designed into our system. However, Trump’s behavior has also proven that we should not assume he’ll moderate or react well when the rules of the game are reinstated after having lapsed during the Obama years.
This isn’t to say that our electoral alternative is any better. As I’ve written before, more than any I’ve ever seen, this election hinges on the timing of oscillating disgust with the two major candidates. The wise move may very well be not to invest much wealth, energy, or emotion in the outcome, devoting personal resources instead to battening down the hatches.