We need more than just a better class of billionaire

When I hear Donald Trump go on and on (and on and on and on) about how only his magnificence can “Make America Great Again”, my thoughts invariably drift back to a scene in The Dark Knight where Heath Ledger’s Joker famously says (as he lights a giant pile of cash on fire):

This town deserves a better class of criminal. And I’m going to give it to them!

Donald Trump isn’t all wrong when he complains about the nature of our federal government. He isn’t all wrong when he recalls how, because he made donations to politicians on both sides of the aisle, he could always get his phone calls returned — and frequently active government intervention on his behalf. He knows that’s how the system works. He isn’t all wrong when he correctly senses — much more than the elites in either political party — that the public has lost patience with a government that is too often out of touch and frequently out of hand.

The larger problem, though, is that Trump’s campaign has failed to connect that message with a coherent set of policies that will deliver lasting reform that would outlive a Trump presidency. (And that of course, ignores the other fundamental problems with his candidacy, like the overt racism and the unavoidable sexism and just the general fact that he comes off like an arrogant jerk.)

During the primaries, Trump mocked folks like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio who went around raising money from wealthy Republicans like Sheldon Adelson.

Like this:

Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to [Sen. Marco Rubio] because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet.

The story is a little different today.

The casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson told Donald J. Trump in a private meeting last week that he was willing to contribute more to help elect him than he has to any previous campaign, a sum that could exceed $100 million, according to two Republicans with direct knowledge of Mr. Adelson’s commitment.
As significant, Mr. Adelson, a billionaire based in Las Vegas, has decided that he will significantly scale back his giving to congressional Republicans and direct most of his contributions to groups dedicated to Mr. Trump’s campaign

If elected, is Donald Trump going to do anything to take the system back from folks like Adelson? Of course he isn’t! Because doing so would also take away Trump’s own ability to game the system to his advantage. That’s why you don’t hear Donald Trump talking about campaign finance reform or term limits (Trump actively supported removing the two-term limit for mayors of New York City)or any sort of meaningful (or even non-meaningful) proposal to break the power of political insiders.

His formal issue positions — such as they are at this point — frequently just parrot standard GOP talking points on issues like taxes, guns, and health care.

And on his signature issue of illegal immigration, his policies are uniquely crafted to avoid impacts on American businesses. Nowhere in Trump’s immigration policies does he suggest that we should crack down on American businesses or private folks (many of whom likely live in Trump’s Manhattan buildings) that hire illegal immigrants and help to create the demand for workers that draws folks over the border in first place.

The Trump agenda, taken in its entirety, is in fact a massive slap in the face to the common folks that Trump claims to champion. His tax plan hands out massive tax cuts across the income spectrum — reducing federal tax revenue by over $900 billion per year. Offsetting tax cuts of that size would take spending cuts unheard of in American history — and cuts that would be practically impossible given Trump’s campaign promises not to touch entitlements or to “rebuild” our military.

No single man can change the rules of mathematics. No single man can fix America’s problems solely by applying his will. A cult of personality is not a strategy.

Fixing what’s wrong with America requires more than just a better class of billionaire. It requires a real agenda with real reforms backed by real people.

You may not like Donald Trump. You may not like Hillary Clinton. You may not like either of them, and that’s your right as an American.

But there are candidates out there — from your local city council and school board to state legislatures to Congress — who do deserve your support because they are trying to do the right thing for this country. Turn off the cable news and their obsession with the national horse race or the gaffe of the day. Seek these candidates out. Throw them a few bucks — you’d be amazed what even $5, $15, or $25 could do for a local candidate. Make some phone calls or drop some literature. Put a sign in your yard. And vote!

We can make America what we want it to be, not what they tell us it will become.

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