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Understanding the Trump Phenomenon

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Tags Taxes and SpendingPolitical Theory

Amid all the hysteria surrounding Donald Trump, clear and sober analyses of who he is and what to expect have been few and far between.

I’ve already seen numerous progressives warning that Trump intends to eviscerate entitlements. It’s as if facts never enter the progressive consciousness. Their opponents are an undifferentiated blob and hold what progressives take to be generically right-wing positions.

Only this robotic approach to politics can account for why progressives seem to think Donald Trump, by far the most pro-LGBT GOP nominee in history, intends to harm homosexuals, or that despite his repeated assurances that he wants nothing more than to shore up entitlements, he intends to cut them sharply.

As anyone who isn’t tone deaf when it comes to American politics knows, nobody in public life favors cutting back entitlements. What the left has to worry about isn’t budget-cutting Republicans. It’s making complete fools of themselves with hysterical predictions anyone in his right mind knows will never come true.

For one thing, to think Trump’s aim is to eviscerate entitlements is to misunderstand the Trump phenomenon altogether.

During the presidential campaign, a number of observers, trying to understand the Trump phenomenon, suddenly discovered the work of Sam Francis, an author and newspaper columnist, from 25 years earlier. Francis wrote about what he called Middle American Radicals (MARs).

The MARs hold political correctness in precisely the same contempt that Hollywood, the media, and the political class hold them. They are not rigidly ideological, nor even ideological at all. While in general, they support private property and the US Constitution, they are not philosophically opposed to business regulation, they believe free trade has made them worse off, and they have no interest at all in cutting Social Security and Medicare. And they are anti-globalist.

At the time Francis wrote about them, his analysis seemed off: if these people existed in the numbers he suggested, how were people like Bob Dole getting the GOP nomination?

The 2016 election, at last, vindicated the Francis analysis. The MARs came out in droves, despite the most relentless attack on their candidate by the media and cultural elite anyone can remember.

Now in this non-libertarian milieu, what might a libertarian reasonably hope for, while of course bracing himself for the usual horrors? Primarily these: (1) de-escalation of tension with Russia; (2) lower corporate taxes; (3) regulatory relief.

In a speech just days ago, Trump summarized his foreign policy. He still wants to fight ISIS. But he went on to say, “We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.”

Now you might think a speech so at odds with the past half-century of bipartisan interventionism would get some media attention and be discussed for days.

You’d think that if you’d had no previous exposure to the American media. That aspect of the speech was picked up on by the alt-media, and that’s about it.

But more than that, Trump’s election destroyed two American crime families in one fell swoop: the Clintons and the Bushes. If you’re not cheering this, you darn well should be.

Then, too, the Trump phenomenon brought media bias into the open more starkly than ever. There are people who think second- and third-generation Mexican-American citizens are about to be deported, or who actually fear the confinement of blacks and homosexuals in camps. That didn’t come from anything Trump said. That is entirely the work of the media and the Social Justice Warriors.

Speaking of the SJWs, the lunacy on the campuses is being captured on YouTube for normal people to see. The SJWs are trying to portray themselves as victims of Trump’s authoritarian followers. But how many of their professors have had their lectures disrupted?

How many Bernie or Hillary rallies had to be canceled out of security fears?

How many people have been beaten up for wearing a Hillary hat? (All right, that one wasn’t fair: no one has ever worn a Hillary hat.)

When was the last time an SJW event was disrupted by libertarians or conservatives?

Teachers — even entire teachers’ unions — have distributed anti-Trump curricula for use in the government’s schools. When was the last time anti-Democrat curricula were proposed for use in government schools?

And let me recall: which candidate was it whose party was caught on tape describing its practice of hiring provocateurs to try to provoke violence?

The violent behavior not of Trump supporters — the alleged wave of Trump-inspired hate crimes being a figment of the media’s imagination — but of Trump opponents is on full display.

In other words, we find in the left every single feature it claims to find in Trump supporters — intolerance, hatred of people unlike themselves, authoritarianism, closed-mindedness, and an appetite for violence.

And this has all been exposed more clearly than ever before for the general public to see.

To get to where we want to go, the American political class has to be hit hard, and the media and the universities need to be exposed for the propaganda factories they are.

Has Trump accomplished these tasks completely and perfectly? Obviously not. As his appointments show, he himself remains far too attached to the establishment he seemed to be railing against. And apart from a few high-profile opinions, his approach to government is, after all, pretty conventional, though the media and the academics can’t bring themselves to admit it.

That’s because, as we’ve said all along, Trump is obviously not a libertarian. Neither are most Americans.

So the Trump years will, no doubt, include their share of statist idiocy and outrages. That’s been true of every presidential administration any of us living today can remember.

But it’s unreasonable to expect the changes we hope for to occur according to a neat playbook. Presumably, we all assumed that before we could reach the libertarian goal we’re striving for, the major institutions that have poisoned the public mind against liberty would have to be shaken up, and the public alerted to their true nature, one way or another.

That process is being at least partly accomplished, and it’s all to the good. That doesn’t make Trump a libertarian. But it does make the discomfort and horror of the elites something to cheer.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of LewRockwell.com.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
Image source: Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/
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