Trump Is the Ultimate Disaster Capitalist

Towards the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, one of Trump’s favorite slogans was “drain the swamp.” With a wink and a nod from the candidate, a lot of people assumed that he was talking about a kind of populism where he would fight for “the forgotten man” against the monied interests in Washington.

What we should have been doing is tying that slogan to something Donald Trump said on Fox and Friends way back in 2014. The relevant portion starts at about the 2:00 minute mark.

The topic of conversation was how the Republicans have a messaging challenge because Democrats promise free stuff (i.e., Obamacare) that gives “those people” permission to not work for a living. Here’s what Trump said:

You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. They you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.

In writing about how Steve Bannon might be a bigger asset outside the White House that he was on the inside, Sarah Kendzior reminds us of how he articulated the same vision.

In 2016, Bannon described himself as a Leninist. When a Daily Beast reporter asked what that meant, Bannon replied: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

…In his February speech to CPAC, Bannon said his objective was to “deconstruct the administrative state” and that many of the injurious incompetents who fill Trump’s cabinet–the EPA head who opposes environmental protections, the HUD secretary who opposes public housing–“were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”

I would also point out that in his exit interview with Peter Boyer of the Weekly Standard, Bannon lamented the fact that, with his departure, the president might be talked into signing a clean debt ceiling increase, thereby avoiding a global economic crisis.

Kendzior writes that this was Trump’s business model in the private sector as well.

Trump spent his business career eagerly anticipating both social and economic disasters. “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy,” Trump said of the housing crash in 2006. Before that, Trump spent decades exploiting the damaged economies of towns like Gary, Indiana and Atlantic City, leaving them as bad or worse off than when he arrived.

Remember this little nugget?

Trump declared “I alone can fix it,” but in order for him to fix it–that is, to consolidate his power under the guise of improving our nation–America needed to be broken, over and over again.

All of that sheds light on the chaos being produced by this White House, the president’s choices for Cabinet positions, the fact that so many key positions in the federal government are not being filled and the divisive tone of almost everything Trump says. What this president shares with his former chief strategist is a desire for chaos and crisis. They see it as a feature, not a bug.

What is clear is that their aim would be to use that chaos and crisis to restore “law and order” from above, not empower populism from below. The “I alone can fix it” signals that those rioting torch-bearers Trump alluded to in the clip up above would simply be fodder towards the ultimate goal of something that much more closely resembles fascism. In other words, he’s talking about peak “disaster capitalism.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.