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How Trump drained the swamp

Before Trump “the swamp” was generally understood to be the corrupt money-power-money feedback loop of special interests and campaign finance. He promised to fix this by “draining the swamp.” But although we were using the exact same term, “drain the swamp” means different things to different people.

Most of us who envisioned the swamp as consisting of the army of lobbyists and SuperPacs channeling money to politicians also believed that draining it is a metaphor for restoring governmental integrity and a greater sense of government’s accountability to the people. So it was a bit of a suprise when Trump announced his cabinet picks as being the super-rich, and that they were to be installed directly into the government posts they most sought to influence. Pudzer to Labor, Tillerson to State, etc.

Here’s what we missed: To Trump “drain the swamp” just means cutting out the middlemen. No need to run a SuperPac or pay a lobbyist to help make policy when you can take the cabinet position and make that policy yourself. For Trump and his close associates, “the swamp” was the thriving ecosystem that provides a veneer of propriety by keeping special interests and politicians at arm’s length. Traditional politicians thought of it as providing an essential service. To Trump it made influence peddling grossly inefficient and had to go.

Trump’s great trick was to convince millions of supporters that the problem isn’t corruption but the need to hide that corruption. That politicians serving their own interest is okay, so long as they do it right out in the open where everyone can see it. In that sense, Trump succeeded wildly. Packing the administration with the super wealthy disintermediated the lobbyists in a single stroke. Lobbying will remain I’m sure but many of its largest patrons now run the country so it will be at least greatly diminished. Swamp: drained.

As for transparency in corruption, Trump is the master. He uses his power to move the market like a Twitter club, bludgeoning any company who gets on his bad side, such as dropping his daughter’s clothing line. There’s no need to show us his taxes since he failed to divest, declared Mar-A-Lago “The Winter White House” and funnels millions of dollars in profit to himself every time he stays there. When informed of Flynn’s toxic ties to Russia instead of firing Flynn he fired the woman who told him about Flynn.

So yeah, Trump drained the swamp. He then built a super-elite country club on the reclaimed land and the membership fee is the cost of an election.