Mises Wire

Understanding the Trump Phenomenon: It's Not What the Elites Think

Donald Trump has won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and is leading in the polls to become the Republican candidate for the presidency in the upcoming general election. His status as the most likely contender to challenge Joe Biden is upsetting establishment figures who think that Trump’s ascent threatens democracy. Trump is constantly pilloried by the mainstream media as a demagogue who emboldens the racist underbelly of American society. Emotions run rampant, but Trump’s villainy has been grossly exaggerated.

After winning the presidency in 2016, pundits thought that Trump would revert America to an era of racism. These predictions swayed many even though they failed to materialize. Donald Trump did not govern as a racist but rather pandered to racial minorities and women. Trump constantly pitched economic plans to galvanize the support of blacks and Hispanics. Like previous presidents he endorsed policies to promote women in science to the dismay of critics and was a relentless advocate for female empowerment.

During his tenure, Trump collaborated with nonwhite communities and often boasted that he had done more for them than previous presidents. Racism and sexism were not the hallmark of his presidency. Trump earnestly borrowed from the liberal playbook by passionately selling his message to minorities. Being an astute politician, Trump quickly endeared himself to women and minorities, instead of pandering to the chauvinism of white nationalists. In fact, Trump bolstered his popularity in minority communities but received diminishing support from whites.

Trump’s presidency was fixated on expanding his base of minority supporters to such a great extent that readers were frequently bombarded with stories explaining his outreach to minority communities. The gains made by blacks and Hispanics under the Trump presidency were covered extensively by the media. Unemployment rates for blacks, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and disabled individuals plummeted to record lows. Declining poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics were also consistent with the Trump presidency’s trends of progress.

However, the benefits of the Trump presidency also extended beyond minority groups to encompass the broader American population, with low-income and blue-collar groups registering considerable wage gains. Trump presided over a buoyant economy despite the criticisms of opponents. The unjustified charges of racism and incompetence leveled against Trump reflect the derangement of critics unwilling to appreciate his mass appeal.

Trump’s rhetoric is incendiary, but beyond his uncouth remarks, he is not vastly different from other presidents. Indeed, there are parallels between Trump and Biden. During his stint, Trump was bullish on China. His contempt for China led to the imposition of tariffs on Chinese imports; however, this proved to be a costly economic policy. Aimed at penalizing China, the policy had the reverse effect of raising prices for American businesses. President Biden has preserved elements of Trump’s antitrade policy and is equally bullish on China.

In 2022, citing national security reasons, Biden announced a ban on the export of semiconductors to China. Further, the administration has prohibited US firms from conducting investment in some of China’s high-tech industries. Similarly, both men advocate protectionism and Buy-America requirements. Although Trump has a more free-market approach to economics, this is not what makes Trump fundamentally different from Biden.

The primary difference is that Biden is a globalist and Trump is an antiglobalist. Donald Trump will not cede sovereignty to global institutions nor rabidly conform to the hysteria of the global environmental movement. Canceling the Keystone Pipeline to appease climate alarmists would not have been an option for Trump. This inane policy shuttered eleven thousand jobs without any serious analysis of the decision. With a Trump presidency, the ability of globalists to exert control over America’s affairs will decline, and that’s why Trump is so loathed by elites: he threatens globalism.

International organizations won’t find it easy to manipulate Trump into doing their bidding. For example, Trump revoked America’s participation in the Paris Agreement that intended to limit warming to 1.5 degrees despite lacking a coherent economic case for doing so. Furthermore, Trump will not enslave America to net-zero targets that run into the trillions. Critics will smear Trump to dissuade Americans from electing him, but even if he is unfit to be President again, his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire indicate that the demand for Trumpism could catapult him to a second presidential victory.

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