Josh Barro of The New York Times has published yet another discussion of that most tiresome of questions: Will Donald Trump usher in an era of reform conservatism? Will Trump's presidential campaign lead, in the long run, to an era when the GOP has a true middle-class agenda, rather than an agenda custom-tailored for plutocrats -- tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for everyone else, immigration reform?
Right away, Barro gets an answer from reformicon and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum:
Is Donald Trump the candidate the reformocons have been waiting for?
“No,” Mr. Frum said.
Great! I think we're done here.
“He may be the jolt that the Republican Party needs to compromise its pro-plutocratic agenda,” he said.
Mr. Frum attributes most Republican candidates’ continued devotion to cuts in taxes and entitlements to the desires of a Republican donor class that benefits directly from lower tax rates and indirectly, through lower labor costs, from high immigration. Mr. Trump, as Mr. Trump will happily tell you, does not need rich donors’ money....
“Trump served notice that the donors’ platform isn’t even acceptable inside the party,” Mr. Frum said.
What is Frum talking about? It's true that Trump has demonstrated that the donors' platform is far less appealing to rank-and-file voters than the donors and the party establishment believed -- but unacceptable? These same voters pulled the lever for a hell of a lot of Republicans running on precisely the donors' platform in the past few years. What do you think the agenda was when Republicans blew out the Democrats in the 2014 midterms? It certainly wasn't a rebuke-the-Koch-brothers agenda. It certainly wasn't a rebuke-the-Koch-brothers agenda when Scott Walker won those three elections. Does Frum really believe that support for (or at least acceptance of) that agenda -- which GOP voters know we Democrats hate -- has simply disappeared?
The Tea Party rank and file cheered the Citizen United ruling. The Tea Party was built in part on Rick Santelli's anti-mortgage-bailout rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. And in 2012, 60 million people voted for a money manipulator who defiantly said that corporations are people and 47% of the country's citizens are parasitical freeloaders, a guy whose running mate once acknowledge a worship of Ayn Rand.
And where are all these rich donors going to go? Are they going to disappear in a puff of smoke? Are they just going to say, "Well, boys, we're licked -- time to stop using our massive wealth to try to influence public policy in America"?
No -- they're going to wait out the Trump moment, whether it goes on for another eight weeks or another eight years, and then regain control of the presidential nominating apparatus. Meanwhile, if Trump stays in the picture, they're going to put a lot of money into electing candidates for other offices who are still loyal to their agenda, and who'll bottle up Trump if he threatens their riches. Oh, and they'll use their cash to try to prevent Democrats from living up to their populist rhetoric -- an effort at which they've been quite successful in recent decades.
Trump is one rich guy in the GOP. All the other rich guys in the GOP are arrayed against him. In the long run, they're not going to lose, even if, in the short run, Trump wins.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog