Would Trump “Make a Deal” With The Left?
As usual, I need to preface this post with the obligatory declaration that I absolutely do not support Trump, I don’t encourage anyone to vote for Trump, and I will not vote for Trump. I oppose Trump. OK?
That said, let’s ponder a hypothetical scenario. After the events of the past few days, the odds have increased that Trump will win the presidency. (He still may well lose; but his odds have almost certainly increased. If Hillary wins, she’ll have done so while under FBI criminal investigation, which would itself be a remarkable feat.)
OK, so say Trump wins. What follows would almost certainly be a “realignment” of sorts; for one thing, the “conservative movement” as it’s been constituted since the Reagan era would splinter. You’d be virtually guaranteed to see some kind of semi-official (or even official) “true conservative” opposition emerge. This opposition would be comprised disproportionately of forlorn conservative elites, including a significant segment of the GOP congressional caucus. It wouldn’t have very much support in the electorate writ large, but it’d be well-represented in elite spheres.
The loathing for Trump within some of these elite GOP spheres might even be more strident than anti-Trump loathing within Democratic spheres, because elite Republicans feel Trump’s a despicable charlatan and crook who staged a “hostile takeover” of their party, discrediting them potentially for years to come and fundamentally upending “conservatism” as it’s popularly perceived in the United States. If Trump wins, the GOP would cease to be the party of “small government” — it never really was, but they’d have to drop even the pretense.
Remember, the constant refrain against Trump during the GOP primaries was that he was “not a real conservative.” That’s what his rival candidates repeated over and over again for months, even though it had no discernible effect on lessening Trump’s popularity with GOP voters. The view espoused by Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and everyone in between was that Trump deviated so dramatically from conservative movement orthodoxies that he was simply “not one of them” and needed to be rejected on that ground.
They were right in the sense that Trump isn’t an ideological conservative. He’s a conservative of a certain kind, but not a conservative in the sense of faithfully adhering to GOP “movement conservative” strictures. He’s not a free trader; he’s at least nominally anti-interventionist — or if you like, he’s a foreign policy nationalist rather than a neoconservative-leaning interventionist. (“Anti-interventionist” would not be the correct word to describe Trump, but he’s closer to that end of the spectrum than the GOP norm by a long shot.)
So say Trump wins and the GOP elite crowd goes into full meltdown mode; they’ve lost control of the party. Their professional fortunes have been jeopardized. Whether they end up creating a new party to oppose Trump, or just oppose him from within: they’ll find a way to oppose him. Let’s say that something like 30% of the GOP congressional caucus formally declares opposition to Trump and joins this hypothetical “Never Trump” caucus.
Trump will be left facing opposition from all directions; he won’t have a unified party, and the aforementioned GOP splinter group will end up allying with Democrats to stymie his agenda (such as he has any recognizable agenda.)
In this scenario, would Trump partner with elements of the Left? Again, he has no deep-seated ideological convictions other than the world-historic greatness of his own deal-making abilities. If Trump is able to get some left-wing members of Congress on board with some legislative initiative, what would prevent him from doing the deal? It wouldn’t be ideological revulsion to left-wing philosophy, as Trump has no firm conservative ideology. (He has been roundly decried by “True Conservatives” as “a liberal.”) It wouldn’t be loyalty to the GOP that prevents him from doing deals with left-wingers, as the GOP has repeatedly demonstrated its disloyalty to Trump by appearing to abandon him en masse after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out a few weeks ago. Recall: Paul Ryan has called Trump a racist (but still technically supports his candidacy — go figure.)
For the most part Trump just wants to look good, demonstrate his prowess at “getting things done,” and be one hell of a fantastic deal-maker. If the Left can aid in these efforts, he’d have every reason to get on board with them. So here’s an example. Let’s say Trump wants to pass a big infrastructure-funding bill, as would seem likely, as Trump has repeatedly expressed support for increased infrastructure spending. At a December 15, 2015 GOP debate, he said this:
“We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people,” Trump said. “If we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges and all of the other problems — our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had — we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.”
I ask again: what would prevent Trump from working with liberals and left-wingers interested in increased infrastructure spending to achieve this vision? Nothing, as far as I can tell.
Trump is already seen by the American public as much less conservative than previous GOP nominees, so it’s not as if he’d be sacrificing previous political commitments by working with the Left; people already generally view him as a fundamentally non-ideological strongman type, with nationalistic inclinations. It’s hard to see why this should be incompatible with cooperation with the left on discrete initiatives.
Trump was basically a “New York City Conservative” for his entire career before the 2016 campaign, which meant he was a social liberal with vaguely authoritarian and “fiscally conservative” sensibilities. He prized “bipartisanship” as somehow an end unto itself. He infamously gave a bunch of money to politicians in both parties (including Anthony Weiner...) Doesn’t it seem conceivable that Trump would revert back to this form once he no longer has to mollify the GOP base at every turn, and can instead construct his own “coalition”?
Maybe, maybe not. This could all be totally wrong; I’ll freely grant that. Nothing about a potential Trump Presidency is easily predictable. I guess that’s why the markets are freaked right now.
And again, to reiterate for the eight millionth time, none of this should be taken as an argument for why it would be good to vote for Trump or hope that Trump wins — it’s just a prognosis as to how the post-election realignment would shake out. That’s all for now.