Imagine This: President Donald Trump
In Rolling Stone’s recent profile of Donald Trump (the one that generated the controversy over Trump’s denigration of Carly Fiorina’s face), there’s an anecdote worth noting for anyone interested in speculating on what kind of president ‘The Donald’ would be should he actually manage to parlay his novice-political bombast into a White Housed victory. At a rally at Hampton High School in New Hampshire, Trump rails against Ford and Nabisco for transporting manufacturing facilities to Mexico, thus vaporizing U.S. jobs. He won’t stand for it, says Trump. He won’t even eat Oreo cookies anymore, and he loves Oreos.
Later, aboard his huge and lavishly appointed Boeing 757 sky castle, he wolfs down a take-out dinner as he watches the political coverage on his vast TV screen. Looking to cap the meal with something sweet, he wanders back to the galley, “where his beloved Oreos live,” writes the author of the profile, Paul Solotaroff. He picks them up, eyes them longingly, then replaces them on the shelf and settles for a couple Vienna Fingers, made by pristine Keebler and not the foul Nabisco. Returning to his seat, he declares to Solotaroff: “I meant what I said: No more Oreos for Trump!”
Somehow this rings true as a reflection of who Donald Trump is and how he would conduct himself should his political pursuit take him into serious campaign success. He won’t trim. He won’t say one thing and do another. He won’t bow and scrape to anyone—not the big-money boys who own the other politicians, not the special interests taking their financial cut at every turn, not the industrialists (like himself in the past) exploiting the system of crony capitalism and pay-to-play politics, not foreign leaders taking advantage of America’s soft and accommodating national temperament.
Trump has positioned himself as the champion of ordinary Americans who can see that the game is rigged—in favor of rich corporations with their hands out, growing numbers of illegal immigrants who flout U.S. law with impunity, politicians who entrench themselves into their jobs through gerrymandering and campaign-finance manipulations. He is the Willie Stark of today’s politics, promising to retrieve the wayward system and give it back to the people.
And he means it. Back in New Hampshire, a converted Democrat named Dino told Solotaroff, “He means what he says, and says what he means. The other guys, they got marbles in their mouth—you don’t even know what they’re saying.” Dino seems convinced that, should Trump become president, he will shake things up. And he’s probably right. It isn’t clear the American people actually want things shaken up in such a manner—or, if they do, that they will want Trump to do the shaking. No votes have been registered, and Trump has a long road ahead just to get past the first nomination tests in Iowa and New Hampshire. But if, perchance, he actually makes it to the White House, we can anticipate some consequences.
Start with the issues he has chosen to emphasize. Though the commentators are correct in noting that there is a lack of specifics in his advocacy, his cluster of issues is noteworthy as an unusual mix in contemporary politics. America today is in a crisis of political deadlock, with partisan groupthink driving both parties to such an extent that collaboration and compromise have become impossible. Trump busts through this groupthink confrontation by attacking elements of both sides—and embracing elements of each.
He embraces thoroughly conservative positions in wanting to eliminate corporate taxation and the estate tax. He despises Common Core and attacks the teachers unions. He declares climate change a hoax. He actually wants to pay off the national debt. He advocates big increases in defense spending. And of course he wants to wall the country off against illegal immigrants and somehow push out of the country those illegals already here. These are standard Republican positions, though he pushes some of them (immigration, taxation) beyond most Republicans’ conventional sensibilities.