Published on TheHill.com on March 1, 2016
The Republican Party has long been led by the rich and the powerful, who have won election after election by persuading the lowly and powerless to vote for them. Ever since the days of Roman politics pitting the plebeians against the patricians, the dilemma of the rich has always been how to get the poor to vote for them. They have succeeded in the past by dividing the poor along racial, sectional and ideological lines.
Now, with Donald Trump’s victories in the GOP presidential race, the jig is up. Whatever their former appellation — Reagan Democrats, the silent majority, the Southern strategy — Joe Sixpack and Archie Bunker are now solidly in the billionaire businessman’s corner.
They flock to Trump because they feel that the Democrats will only pay attention to their needs if they are people of color, single mothers or gay. And they are convinced that the establishment Republicans will be true to their country club roots and, ultimately, sell them out.
The theories of Republican intellectuals and the compassion Democrats wear on their sleeves have been given their chance to ameliorate the lives of blue-collar America, and they have failed to do so. The left and the right have merged in their discontent and animated a new phenomenon: the Donald.
Is this the crusade of a secular messiah or the last, best act of a huckster and con man? We just don’t know.
But we do know a lot about Trump.
He gets things done. At any price, despite any obstacle, no matter what the legalities or proprieties, he makes it happen. He is, pardon the pun, the bull in the China shop as he gores those who fleece America and curbs those who would pack our electorate to make it more congenial to their liberalism.
But what happens when Trump’s ego and focus lands on something conservatives disapprove of?
What will he do to sell the deals he will probably make to balance the budget, even with taxes? How will freedom of the press weather the storm of a man who feuds with the media and demands looser libel laws? Will the balance of power tilt even more to the executive branch, making Congress an increasingly ornamental body in a parliamentary system?
Will he get us into a war as his differences with foreign leaders escalate into personal vendettas? Will Trump become as obsessed with deposing foreign leaders as George W. Bush did with Saddam Hussein and Hillary Clinton did with Moammar Gadhafi? Will he lead us into war after war?
How will Trump govern? By a reign of terror. The establishments of both parties will be shell-shocked into compliance with his wishes. Peggy Noonan got it right in her Wall Street Journal column. They will pass through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) and come out willing to be lashed into line by an imperious president.
Those who feel Trump will be faithful to their agendas are in for a shock. Be they the partisans of the religious right or free traders or anti-immigration groups, Trump will not be their man. He will be nobody’s man. He will not toe the line of any ideologicals. His sole imperative will be what it has always been: Get it built. Get it done.
To grasp who Donald Trump is, read Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” about Robert Moses, the imperial parks commissioner of New York City who ruled transportation, construction, highways, parks and land use with an iron hand for 50 years. That’s Trump. Nothing but nothing stands in his way.
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