Now that Donald Trump’s got the inside track to the GOP nomination, it’s time to figure out how he’ll box out Hillary Clinton in the general election. I think he’ll make a play for some of Bernie Sander’s voters, who are just as sick of the Chamber of Commerce and crooked trade deals as Trump’s current supporters.
Clearly, Trump will stick with national pride, but I think the logical next step is for him to expand on his message of economic strength achieved through crushing enemies foreign and domestic. I think the play here is muscular centrism — he’s got to be the guy who’ll fight the hardest against the forces who’ve been screwing us over. So here’s my 10-point platform for Trump. Stop me if you can’t picture Trump saying one of these things.
1. America doesn’t win any more, thanks to stupid treaties our leaders have signed with much better negotiators from China to Mexico. These treaties are going to be shredded, and we’re going to negotiate new deals where we get treated fairly, like any other country.
2. A nation without borders isn’t a nation. We have the right to determine who we are as a people. Only a person born in the United States to an American parent can be a citizen. Mexicans aren’t Americans. It’s that simple. Until we have time to make it perfectly clear who’s a citizen and who isn’t, we’re not going to be granting full citizenship to any immigrants. They can still come, but through the process. They’ll be allowed to live in the United States, but only as a guest worker or a permanent resident. Illegal immigrants will be deported.
3. It’s the government’s responsibility to provide people an opportunity to earn a decent living and enjoy a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Whenever the economy goes into recession for more than two quarters, guest workers will have their permits revoked. Permanent residents will be allowed to stay, if they have a sponsor, but will not be allowed to hold a job until the Office of the President declares the recession to be over. There’s no reason the government should be giving away American jobs to foreigners, even if private companies still can. So for starters, every government job, whether federal, state, or local, is going to be filled only by citizens.
4. It’s time to fix our broken education system. We want every bright and hard-working young person to have a higher education and a successful life. Our schools have to teach more real-world skills and way less useless crap. We’re going to teach the kids how great America is, so they don’t fall for all the politically correct nonsense in college. We’re going to have government-paid scholarships for all the kids who look like superstars. We’re also going to restore PE programs and after-school sports in all the schools, and we’re going to offer small grants for youth sports organizations across the country.
5. We’re not just going to protect Medicare and Social Security, we’re going to make them great. Who can live on $800 a month? Nobody. So we’re going to increase benefits, and we’re going to negotiate discounts on prescription drugs, and we’re going to crack down on all the fraud in the system.
6. We’re going to balance the budget, and that means forcing the Pentagon to operate more like a business. That means you don’t reorder $700 million in supplies that are overstocked. You don’t throw $30 billion after a weapons system because somebody got paid off. The defense contractors, with the politicians in their pockets, have been robbing us blind, and that’s going to stop. We’re going to negotiate better deals with all of them. And if they don’t like it, it somebody else gets the contract. Our troops deserve the best. It’s a sad sign when we have to outsource our security to companies like Blackwater. We’re not going to do that any more. We’re going to rebuild the greatest military on earth.
7. We’re going to close all the loopholes in the tax code, so that the big corporations pay their share. We fought two wars in the Middle East because it benefitted Dick Cheney and Halliburton. Now it’s time to squeeze Halliburton and other crony capitalists until they’ve repaid everything they took from us in those wars. If they don’t like it, they’re gone.
8. We need to cut out all the weasels who are robbing the middle class. We’re going to double the capital gains tax. We’re going to crack down on everybody who’s selling phony mortgages, or cooking the books, or taking their cut in fees while leaving their customers holding the bag. Maybe we can’t get the death penalty, but we are not going to mess around with these guys. We’re going to build a healthy middle class and grow small businesses. So whenever the government at any level is bidding out a job, we’re going to give the first chance to small businesses. We’re going to auction off all the government property that’s not being used to help balance the budget.
9. It’s time to put a stop to all the lies spread by the media, and by dark money. As the American people, we at least have the right to know that campaign ads aren’t being funded by foreigners. All campaign speech, whether it’s a TV ad or a website or even a news organization, should come from registered sources, so we know who’s talking. We’re going to open up our libel laws so when the media write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to shut them down.
10. We’re going to have freedom of religion for everyone, so long as the practice of that religion doesn’t endanger the country or violate somebody else’s rights. We’re not going to establish an official religion, of course, but we are going to recognize our Judeo-Christian heritage, and its basic incompatibility with Islam and the death cult many of its followers are wrapped up in. We will try hard to accommodate the religious beliefs of individuals, remembering always that our national security comes first.
Now, maybe I’ve got a tin ear, but I don’t think any of these points would sound out of place coming from Trump’s mouth. The move is as old as national campaigns: get out farthest to the right for the primary, then rush back to the middle and take the opposition’s best issues away. But would a President Trump actually follow up on any of these policies? I sort of hope not, because I took them all from the Nazi Party platform, and updated them just a bit.
Low blow? Maybe.
Am I saying Trump would lead some sort of Holocaust against immigrants? Of course not. And in fairness, I left out the most extreme bits about German blood and Jews.
But that’s the point: take away the Holocaust, or even the early hints at the Holocaust, and what does that leave the National Socialists? Well, contra The Big Lebowski, not much of an ethos. It’s a beggar’s bowl, as Trotsky put it. Hitler’s “political thoughts were the fruits of oratorical acoustics,” he wrote, nothing more than applause lines, talking points. Those lines work with people feeling abandoned, hopeless, betrayed, and beset. Trump has admitted that he used to study those speeches.
Hitler denounced unfair treaties and foreign powers that had robbed a nation of its pride. He scapegoated domestic enemies, particularly those whose useless financial machinations were sucking the life out of the country. Bernie Sanders showed that sort of demagoguery will work in our country, provided it’s shorn of its anti-Semitic associations. If Trump wants to bang that drum, he’s got plenty of followers who will supply their own anti-Semitism.
Now, Trump isn’t designing uniforms for his paramilitary thugs. His rallies are no safe space for protesters, but they’re still closer to a casino buffet scene than anything staged at Nuremberg. He isn’t threatening war. And notwithstanding all the racists he’s got fired up, his unbounded contempt is indiscriminate, not reserved for one race. The single trait he indisputably shares with Hitler is a love of absolute power concentrated in himself; his recently resurfaced remarks on Gorbachev and Tiananmen Square could only be made by a man who worships power for its own sake. That sort of man is always a threat to start a war.
That’s also the sort of man we call a fascist. Now, the term fascist has been so overused, especially by ridiculous leftists, that it’s lost most of its meaning, not that it ever had much. Fascism is basically the Oakland of ideologies — the there not being there. It’s rightly understood as a religion of the state, with the charismatic head of government as high priest. It’s got other aspects — communal, militaristic, superpatriotic, authoritarian, intolerant — but it’s not necessarily right-wing. Jonah Goldberg demolished that old Commie lie in his classic book, Liberal Fascism. Fascism can come from the left or the right, or in Trump’s case, from the “extreme” center. Take militarism out of the picture, and modern fascism looks like Peronist Argentina — stagnant, unstable, arrogant, but no threat to anybody but its lenders. The fascist inspiration, one might say, was Caesar Augustus, who left the old institutions in place as a respectable façade for his tyranny over a people whose founding myth was their rejection of a king. In the same way, fascist economics are superficially capitalist, but actually state-directed — Obamacare writ large. We took a sharp turn in this direction 15 years ago, but even in our oppressive regulatory environment, Trump’s ideas are shocking. His insistence that he’s going to force Apple to make its products on U.S. soil makes no sense in legal terms — it’s simply impossible. It only makes sense in the light of Mussolini’s famous formulation: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”
This is the end I fear. The rule of a man replacing the rule of law. Trump already meets the four criteria of a demagogue: he poses as a man of the people, he produces a strong emotional response, he manipulates this emotion for his benefit, and he threatens established principles of governance. He could break not just the establishment, whatever that’s supposed to be, but our Constitutional republic. One can already hear him making like Andrew Jackson: “John Roberts had made his decision; now let him enforce it.” Do we really want rule by whim?
Worse, we have no idea what Trump really believes, or if he even knows. Was he a Democrat his whole life to fit New York social expectations? Or is he playing conservatives for suckers now? What does he want, other than gratification of his vanity? We know that in a profession full of greedy narcissists, he stands out as a greedy narcissist. So would he shame the nation, like a Clinton or a Berlusconi? Would he cause a sex scandal, like a Clinton or a Berlusconi? Would he use the office to get richer, like a Clinton or a Berlusconi? I think that’s the best case.
As one of Trump’s leading admirers, Jeffrey Lord, has noted in these pages, people respond to Trump not for what he says, but for what they see him doing — he doesn’t talk about fighting, he fights. That’s one thing we know about him for sure. So maybe he calls in a drone strike on John Oliver for calling him Drumpf. But the thing we know about Trump that makes him different from everyone else in the country today is that he has taken his companies into bankruptcy four times. In this game of thrones, he’s the anti-Lannister: a Trump never pays his debts.
Yet people want him administering $20 trillion in national debt? Congressional Republicans have had their fun playing chicken with the debt limit, and played it just crazy enough to win a few concessions. But Trump’s the guy who might not even know he’s supposed to swerve.
Here’s the one fascist comparison I’m sure matters: Axel Kicillof, the minister of the economy for the Peronist Argentine government in 2014, taking an hour-long press conference to deny that the default his government had just triggered was actually a default; and Trump freaking out whenever someone brings up his multiple bankruptcies, calling Jeb Bush a liar, and telling Fox News anchor Chris Wallace he was “living in a world of make believe.”
I don’t know what’s up with that, but I don’t think these strongman types are troubled about everyone knowing they screwed other people over. I think they just can’t stand to be seen as losers.