During the presidential campaign, there were those who thought that a Trump presidency would be at odds with Republicans on some issues. So far we’re seeing no signs of that.
He promised to “drain the swamp” and has filled it with the rich and powerful on Wall Street. He talked about creating jobs with a big infrastructure program, which doesn’t appear anywhere on the horizon right now. And he pretended to be isolationist in his foreign policy, but seems to be relying on Steve Bannon for advice – someone who is not only intent on igniting a global war on Islam, but is rumored to believe the United States is headed toward an inevitable confrontation with China and Iran. When it comes to Trump’s National Security Council, the NYT goes on to report that “Many of the first ideas that have been floated have involved military, rather than diplomatic, initiatives.”
That reality is undergirded with something Paul Krugman wrote today. Putting it in today’s parlance, it amounts to the idea that ignorance is a feature, not a bug.
Competent lawyers might tell you that your Muslim ban is unconstitutional; competent scientists that climate change is real; competent economists that tax cuts don’t pay for themselves; competent voting experts that there weren’t millions of illegal ballots; competent diplomats that the Iran deal makes sense, and Putin is not your friend. So competence must be excluded.
I would make one distinction that Krugman didn’t. While the Trump administration has shown a remarkable level of incompetence, what we’re talking about is ignorance – which is one of the things that leads to incompetence. It is the embrace of the two that led me to write about the death of pragmatism.
The exclusion of knowledge and competence is something Republicans have embraced for quite a while now – as is demonstrated by the fact that Krugman’s list pre-dates Trump.
Other than an alignment with the wealthy, an interventionist foreign policy and an embrace of ignorance, the Trump administration has reached back to the modern-day incarnation of the Republican Party with a restructuring of their Southern Strategy from the Nixon years. Embracing a playbook from those days, he is promising to be the “law and order president” based on fear-mongering that has been expanded beyond African Americans to include immigrants of color and Muslims.
What ties these elements together is something at the heart of who Donald Trump is, as well as an underlying assumption that runs through the policies of the Republican party. It comes down to a belief that certain people are meant to dominate and others are destined to be dominated. Most often it is the wealthy (i.e., job creators) who are meant to dominate. But it extends to the idea that the U.S. should dominate the rest of the world…that white people should dominate people of color…that men should dominate women…that Christians should dominate Muslims…that humans should dominate the earth…that Donald Trump should dominate any opponent. While it is not often expressed in those terms, it is there in every aspect of the ideas that Trump and Republicans promote.
To expect anything different from Trump than the worst Republicans have put forward over the last few decades is a fool’s errand. They share a world view that just so happens to be antithetical to what most of us mean when we refer to democracy.