Trump’s Cultural Optics

Every movement president is soon accused of selling out to the establishment and drowning in Washington’s permanent and deep swamp.

“Let Reagan be Reagan” was an early lamentation of conservatives, fearing their godhead was being watered down by Jim Baker and diluted by George H.W. Bush centrists.

Bill Clinton used to trot Hillary Clinton out to play the flaming campus progressive of old to quiet rumors that an evil pollster Dick Morris—promoting liberal heresies such as school uniforms and “100,000 new policemen”—had snuck in the service entry to the White House to brainwash Clinton back to the center.

Few diehard Obama zealots in summer 2008 ever imagined that by February 2009 there would be party hacks like a Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Usually first-term and formerly ideological presidents are accused of backsliding to the center, to avoid midterm disasters, to ensure reelection, and to get something done in Washington.

align=”right” color=”#447198″ But at some point, Trump must realize what won him the presidency and will keep it for him are the likes of the scruffy Bannon, the supermom Conway, the often weird and bothersome Freedom Caucus, and the true-against the grain believers who are ready for a call for White House duty.

Trump is now accused of following the same script.

So is it dangerous for a movement president to recalibrate?

It depends.

If the economy is growing, the answer is probably not.

After Reagan’s 7% plus GDP growth in 1984, few Reaganites worried about his ideological apostasies.

Once Clinton cut deals with the Republican House, and got the deficits down and GDP up, Democrats enjoyed the momentum far more than how it was obtained.

Trump for now is on a roll. He’s handled well visits from foreign leaders like Egyptian Military Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. His appointments remain stellar. Neil Gorsuch will be an inspired Supreme Court judge. The economy seems to be reawakening. His one-off strike at WMD depots in Syria mostly won praise. Even Trump’s wild tweets, from his take on Swedish terrorism to “White House” “tapping” reflect cunning as much as laxity, and if not literally accurate in their details, often approximated reality.  

But if a president stumbles at home or abroad, his loyal base certainly does matter—most especially for populist presidents who are without institutionally insured support.

In that context, rumors grow that those who got Trump elected—conservative House Republicans who voiced early support, operators like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon whose electoral geniuses broke the blue wall, and grassroots former Tea-Party activists who got the crowds out—are all losing influence to what used to be referred to by Trump himself as “low energy” mainstream establishment Republicans.

For now, these are mostly overhyped court intrigue of who is “in” and who is “out” this week. Meanwhile, more quietly Trump’s executive orders on immigration, energy development, deregulation, and law enforcement delight his hard-core supporters, as he dismantles eight years of Obama progressivism. Most of his appointments are just what Trump pledged.  

With lots of new good jobs, a strong stock market, and an upsurge in business confidence, for now the palace politics hardly matter.

But later on?

If there is any credence to the narrative that Trump is elevating his centrist family members at the expense of his grassroots supporters, or the mainstream Republican congressional establishment or the New York/Wall Street fixtures in favor over his populists, then he will have lots of trouble if the economy stalls, a strike or intervention abroad gets messy, or a scandal erupts.

And all these crises at some point in all presidencies usually will occur.

In truth, Trump has lots of redlines he cannot cross.

He promised a wall and reiterated that “Mexico will pay for it”. For his base to come out in 2018 that means he must build a physical barrier. Where it is nearly impossible due to terrain, he must explain that a few short stretches are policed by videos and drones.

Taxing remittances or leveling tariffs, or at least some symbolic act, is necessary—even as his new advisors whisper in his ear that such a boast “to make Mexico pay” was always hokey and impossible.

Any weakening on job protections, health care reform, and lopping off the tentacles of the politically correct federal octopus will likewise turn off millions who came out on the premise that Trump was not just another Washington politician.

Trump can order a few retaliatory strikes to restore deterrence and cement his unpredictable and Jacksonian image—but not so many as to turn off his base that he is a neoconservative interventionist determined to rebuild the Middle East.

Critical, then, for Trump, the former television reality star, is cultural optics.

In the manner that Trump’s hulking presence—with combed over dyed hair, orange tan, mile-long tie, and baseball cap—incited smirks among elites while delighting his base, so too the often caricatured Conway-Bannon presence reassured the proverbial masses that someone like themselves was resonating the true inner populism of the billionaire Manhattanite Trump.

As in the case of Trump’s own populist contradictions, it did not matter that Conway was a veteran politico or Bannon a former Goldman-Sachs investment banker and current millionaire.

Conway came across as a working mom who was always game to joust with hostile television journalists. She was unafraid to say outrageous things or risk gaffes and howlers. All the while she remained poised, while in wink-and-nod fashion signaling directly to the Trump base something like, “Here we all go again with these arrogant jerks.”

The Washington media sneered at Bannon’s unkempt presence, his flushed cheeks and bloodshot eyes—and thereby only reassured Trump supporters that he too was one of them. Bannon’s brilliant combination of popular culture and Jacksonian politics—playing the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get what you Want” at the end of Trump rallies to cheering crowds who could have just as well come out of a NASCAR race—helped to smash apart the remnant blue wall.

The key to the two’s appeal was threefold: an authenticity that enhanced Trump’s own aura that, whatever he was, he was at least real with deep affection for the muscular classes.

The mainstream media got it wrong that because both Conway and Bannon were affluent and privileged, therefore they could not be populists. Likewise, the privileged and affluent Bernie Sanders, capitalist owner of three homes and an astute tax deductor, squared the circle of winning over would-be socialists unlike himself. The backgrounds of Conway and Bannon were not aristocratic: the more each became successful, the more each seemed to resonate empathy with those just like themselves that had not been so fortunate.

Finally, they radiated a sense of controlled recklessness: both Conway and Bannon were edgy and capable, like Trump, of saying or acting in unpredictable ways (especially in a Lee Atwater fashion of hitting back hard at opponents, in the manner that neither McCain’s nor Romney’s court had been willing or able).

In contrast we live in an age in which nothing is real: late-night talk show hosts are snarky and smirky rather than funny; bold sounding talking heads are in truth more often conniving and careerist; television news readers are blow-dried empty suits skilled at mellifluous nonsense; commercials show us stylish super men and women who seem ready to bench press their own weight as they do brain surgery; and politicians go on camera to talk five  minutes while managing to say only the usual “on the one hand/on the other hand” crap.

Team Trump’s appeal was that whatever it was, it was at least not predictably massaged and packaged. What the media hyped as a train wreck, voters tolerated as something like their own everyday disasters.

In sum, President Trump still needs both the message and the messengers that got candidate Trump into the White House.

No one objects to, but indeed welcomes, his inclusion of sober and judicious pros, who know how to run the bureaucracy, the Congress, and the military. And Trump may be winning over mainstream Republican coastal insiders with his reassurances that establishmentarians are working with him and he is dramatic in cutting red tape and restoring American deterrence.

But at some point, Trump must realize what won him the presidency and will keep it for him are the likes of the scruffy Bannon, the supermom Conway, the often weird and bothersome Freedom Caucus, and the true-against the grain believers who are ready for a call for White House duty.

The worst nightmare for a Trump presidency is to slide into a centrist, split-the-difference agenda and team, but presided over by a still uncouth and tweeting Trump.

In the eyes of his voters, that nightmare would mean his base got all the risks of Trump’s mercurial behavior but without any of the upsides of his fiery populist Jacksonian vision.

Imagine a nonstop tweeting and combed-over Jeb Bush or an orange Marco Rubio—and see how that will work out next time in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the newly released The Dying Citizen.

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88 responses to “Trump’s Cultural Optics”

  1. Brilliant and insightful as always, professor.

    Steve Bannon is as close to a political genius as exists today. And, yes, there are or have been geniuses in politics just as in all other fields of endeavor from art to law to medicine. Bannon is a remarkable visionary, full stop. Kellyanne Conway is a brilliant strategist and communications professional. She seamlessly transitioned from a mainstream, conventional tactician to an edgy, Trumpian dynamo. Bannon and Conway are invaluable to Trump’s success, re-election and overdue transformation of the Republican Party.

    Ultimately, it’s all about Trump, of course. He displays keen political instincts and analyzes people and situations almost instantly. Trump also is proud and reckless. He possesses all the traits, some contradictory, Bannon identified as required to dismantle the administrative state.

    The key questions are:

    1. Can Trump resist the warmongering tendencies that pollute the Imperial City’s mindset?
    2. Can Trump allow the mainstream GOP to be part of his administration without the entryism turning him into another Bush? (you allude to this one)
    3. Can Trump truly put “America First” and resist the war drums and pleas to reach across the aisle to support comprehensive immigration reform and other discredited ideas, which is closely related to the first two questions?

    I think if anyone can respond to all three questions affirmatively, it is Trump. If he is unable, it will be more than a failed presidency, it will be a failed nation.

    • I don’t know. The immigration ban was a complete disaster. A black eye for nothing.

      • The missile strike on Syria was a joke. Trump’s approach to the ME & terrorism is as bumbling and incoherent as Obama’s was.

        The Obamacare “repeal and replace” was a total cluster-phook. Don’t count on tax reform!

        The “wall” is going nowhere.”

        Gorsuch was easy – a Con for a Con. Wait for the hard appointments to come when the Lib supremes die off.

        Lotsa slimy critters still slithering in the swamp.

      • Either you’re a troll or gutless. Obamacare belongs to Ryan; Trump almost got his hands stuck on that tar baby, but not quite. However, something will come of it that is satisfactory. The next one to follow Gorsuch will be much easier: the Reid option has been executed, and Trump has a list – perhaps his biggest electoral mandate – with 20 names on it. If he diverged from that he would be nuts. If the Senate Rs won’t support him on that, they’ll lose their seats. The “swamp” is huge, but the effort to roll back regulations has been impressive to date, and probably will continue.

      • Get your check from Soros yet? Should be a big bonus for all the belittling of people who opposed HRC,


      • You would be taken more seriously if you wiped Soros’ spew off your chin, sore loser. Trump won, your candidate lost, Libtard.

      • What do you mean? Several federal judges stepped way beyond their job description to stop him there. What’s new? Except that down the road, Trump will have his ruling reinstated, and thus be vindicated. But this is going to happen again, probably many times. However, in time, he’s going to get to name a substantial chunk of the federal court. If he chooses these judges as well as he has chosen his list of Supremes, we’ll be in great shape for many years to come. And, I believe, these judicial activists almost insure Trump will put a finger in their eye.

  2. As always a brilliant essay from Prof. Hanson.

    The problem now is that so many of Trump’s appointments are dispiriting. E.g. Kevin McAleenan as Commissioner of Customs Border Protection. This open-borders Obama holdover has caused many Border Patrol agents to feel betrayed by the Donald Trump they bravely spoke out for – the only presidential candidate they had ever endorsed as a body. Then there is Trump’s incoming chair of the Council of Economic Advisers who wants to double immigration. Mnuchin from Goldman Sachs being the deviser of economic policy; Pudzer, Obamacare Lite, no DACA repeal, no refugee slowdown, not making Kris Kobach Secretary for Homeland Security….

    President Trump has now become a riddle wrapped in an enigma surrounded by mystery.

    How did someone who outwitted everybody in the Political Class, Mainstream Media, Deep State, Academe &c, and whose message was clearly grasped by delighted huge audiences all over the country, and who has succeeded in business by having clearly defined objectives to which he stuck brilliantly (e.g. the re-creation of the failed NY ice-rink), become such a puppet of the Old Order from early on in his preparations for office?

    I don’t know.

    But the jury on his presidential aims and will is soon going to have to give up giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    • The jury is still out. We also got Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, etc.

      • Plus now Justice Gorsuch and many others. So far, so good.

      • There was a gain of about 30 years of additional service.

      • You hope. And, the proportion of Cons and Libs did not change (maybe). What matters is the next appointment or two – those can transform the SCOTUS into what it should be – a body that is impartial and rules according to the Constitution and the letter of the laws enacted by Congress. Those are the appointments that will be resisted ferociously (because the next two to depart will probably be Liberal justices) if they are not replaced in kind – i.e., “balance” maintaining.

      • Of course there was — we were on the cusp of Merrick Garland being nominated and confirmed.

      • Uh, no we were not. But, we may be for real in the near future.

      • There was a huge gain, in that 4-4 ties are no longer going to happen. Some of those will probably come cycling back .

    • Good grief. It’s only been 70 days. Illegal immigration is at a low on the southern border. Such an outrageous”betrayal.”

      • And, he’s already blundered badly and changed his tune on critical issues.

      • I was anti-Obama before YOU ever heard of him, dumbass.

      • But illegal immigration was already at a low on the southern border. Economic gains in Mexico, combined with better enforcement techniques in ICE, had already curbed immigration from Mexico. The border wall solves a problem that really doesn’t exist, which is the problem with it. Even if Mexico can be persuaded to pay for it with tariffs or money or trade agreements, we’re spending political capital that could be better spent elsewhere. And probably, they *won’t* pay for it. It’s disappointing that it just all seems so bogus, he was supposed to be really shaking things up, and he’s just not.

  3. I think this is the most important part of you piece, good Professor.

    The key to the two’s appeal was threefold: an authenticity that enhanced Trump’s own aura that, whatever he was, he was at least real with deep affection for the muscular classes… Finally, they radiated a sense of controlled recklessness: both Conway and Bannon were edgy and capable, like Trump, of saying or acting in unpredictable ways (especially in a Lee Atwater fashion of hitting back hard at opponents, in the manner that neither McCain’s nor Romney’s court had been willing or able).

    At least, I thought, Trump (unlike Romney) is actually acquainted with the muscular classes. And being the working class daughter of a Stone-Cutter, that poignantly mattered to me. But now it seems revelation might be on its way.

    It isn’t that I didn’t know that Trump’s candidacy was proof presumptive, coast to coast, that there was no one left to vote for. It’s almost impossible to be convinced while seriously considering it yet I still think it’s true. I hope I’m wrong.

  4. “His appointments remain stellar.” Was this written with a straight face? One of those appointments wants an immunity deal because he was an unregistered foreign agent and another just got kicked off the NSC. Another was demoted to Ambassador to Singapore. Preibus’s second in command was fired. And all this in less than 75 days of presidency.

    • Steven Bannon is still sitting in on the NSC. Get your fake news right. Besides, Bannon is a political adviser, whether he is on the NSC is six of one, half dozen of the other.

      Was Huma Abedin a “unregistered foreign agent”? Did you know she and her entire family are Mooooslim Brotherhood members?

      Does Barry bin Obama possess Indonesian citizenship?

      • Junior high level made up spelling = instant zero credibility.

    • This easily is the best Administration assembled in modern times. The question is one of goals and policies, not personnel.

      • Because goals and policies accomp!ish themselves without people?

  5. Trump needs to pivot back to the America First narrative ASAP.

    I understand he’s enjoying a victory lap but we didn’t vote for Jared Kushnerberg, Goldman Sachs and the NeoCons.

    I really hope he doesn’t turn into George H. W. Bush who ran on Reaganism but became the first True NeoConservative.

    He was also a One Term POTUS because he broke his campaign promise not to raise taxes.

  6. I think he is sending a very important message to President Trump.

  7. Why the hell is he alllowing yael lempert to influence him?

  8. Sheesh… he hasn’t even been in office for 100 days yet. The honeymoon period’s not over and you want a divorce already?

  9. So much prolix to simply acknowledge that voters are gullible, emotional fools easily taken in by hucksters.

  10. It is too soon to tell, with the exception of Gorsuch, the abject failure of Chuck Schumer. Schumer contested a like minded replacement for former Judge Scalia but totally destroyed his weak power. He forced the nuclear option, made legitimate by his predecessor. Trump may now seat the likes of George Wallace and David Duke on the court (Please NO!). Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

    The rest of history must wait for future clarity. This is some thing a scholar of history completely understands.

    If employment and wages get better, the health care/ tax reform becomes law, and we are not sucked into war, Trump will be our next President.

    Trump’s current short comings is that he did not comprehend the depth and area of the swamp. He has yet to lead a unified party; the Republican House blocked health care. The entrenched climate change cabal is still a powerful adversary; he needs scientific allies to examine the books for error. Ditto education reform. Ditto energy policy reform. Ditto rebuilding the military.

    Trump gets an incomplete but the semester is not over.

    • Trump will likely replace the Leftist justices in kind. He is, after all, a life-long Liberal Dem and a cowardly, self-serving blow-hard who will seek to appease the Libs.

      • I do not know the future but there are many reports that Justice Kennedy, 80, long considered the 4 – 4 tie breaking vote, will retire this summer. With the bar set at 51 votes, the nominee could be confirmed by only the Republicans, thanks to Chuck Schumer. I look for a center-right selection about 50 years old, by Trump.

        The grim reaper may initiate further changes within the Trump Presidency. We may see 7- 2 decisions. They will define Trump’s place in history, barring war.

  11. The BAT is reportedly dead, tariffs appear to be off the table, and they’re touting meaningless “concessions” with China as some big win. Now, they’re saying that they’ll accept a worse deal if China helps with North Korea, which is the exact trade-off (fold on trade for geopolitical goals) that got us where we are today.

    Trump is a modern day Odysseus. He warned his base of the “false song of globalism,” but appears to have forgotten to plug his own ears.

    • Before you crawl off and commit suicide, take a deep breath and relax. We have no idea how these things will go; Trump has to go through Congree on much of it. As long as he shows up a the table with his concepts in tow, he’s going to get some, and in cases, maybe all, he wants. That’s the way the system works, however.

      • Yeah – just like he did with Obamacare!! Bwahahahaha!!! Trumpsuckers — their gullibility is boundless!!

    • Yet, he practiced globalism – outsourced and bought foreign – for decades. His supporters are suckers.

  12. Remind us. Who were the conservative House Republicans who voiced early support? Yes, grassroots former Tea-Party activists got the crowds out. Are we surprised that all are losing influence to mainstream establishment Republicans?

    Trump is elevating his centrist family members at the expense of his grassroots supporters, or the mainstream Republican congressional establishment or the New York/Wall Street fixtures in favor over his conservative supporters.

    Weakening on Obamacare repeal, and lopping off the tentacles of the politically correct federal octopus will likewise turn off millions who came out on the premise that Trump was not just another Washington politician.

    Trump certainly is not winning over conservative Republicans with his reassurances that establishmentarians are working with him.

    Trump must realize that thinking the Freedom Caucus is weird and bothersome is offensive to freedom lovers.

    • All of it predictable. Trump IS the establishment. He’s a life-long Liberal Dem and a sociopathic, incompetent, pseudocelebrity huckster.

      • Yep. And enough with this phony “he’s on a roll” nonsense being peddled by those on the right. It’s beyond idiotic. So far Trump (along with Paul Ryan) has botched replacing Obamacare, is pulling a bait and switch on the border wall idea, let the judiciary take away his executive immigration powers, has offered no religious liberty protections, and doesn’t seem the list bit interested in defunding Planned Parenthood.

      • That’s the thing – I’m reading this article, and it seems like there are a number of underlying assumptions about what constitutes “successes” for Trump that I just haven’t seen as actual successes. “His one-off strike at Syria mostly won praise”?!? Really? He got elected saying we should stay out of Syria, he’s been saying it for years, and he got elected saying we shouldn’t let refugees in. Then all of a sudden, there we are in Syria because he watches a video? It makes him look like he’s getting influenced by (a) a video or (b) people who think we *should* be in Syria. Neither of these is good, and makes him look weak, which was widely reported. Congressional reps who would ordinarily be on his side were angry because he didn’t get Congressional approval, and the fact that there’s been no follow-up about a change in policy on Syria makes it look like he just reacted and then forgot about it. It makes me nervous when journalists have to make up successes, why not focus on Gorsuch and defunding Planned Parenthood?

      • Trump doesn’t have any core beliefs. He reacts to what he sees or what he’s been told by his advisors or his family members. Even the border wall idea is something he’s bailing on. He can be made to be liberal, conservative, or moderate depending on the time of day.

      • The guy is a billionaire real estate promoter who ran a highly successful television show for years. He is at least a real celebrity.

      • He’s a celebrity. that doesn’t confer any sense of moral value or importance. You are just apishly denying reality here.

    • Centrist family members? Donald Jr. is the only Trump who’s a registered Republican and the only one who’s reasonably sane on political issues. The rest are liberal Democrats. Ivanka is pro-abortion, pro-LGBT agenda, and wants a new entitlement program, government paid maternity leave.

  13. The problem with Trump is that the rhetoric ,especially as reported by interpreters and critics is not a reliable standard. We will have to wait for the eventualities to take place before we can judge his effectiveness. As we just saw with Syria, a small well planned execution can have immensely more effect than an unimplemented grand strategy, ala 0bama.

    • Syria strike was only effective in wasting a lot of taxpayer dollars on missiles. A temp bump in the news cycle. Assad resumed using the base the next day and went on bombing.

      • The effect on Russia and China/ North Korea ? Wait for what is developing.

      • YOU wait for nothing, fool. Russia and China are playing Trump for the sap he is.

      • China has already helped put pressure on North Korea – fool yourself , ape.

      • Right — you know that how — because they or Trump say so??? Bwahahahaha!!! And, what has been the positive result of the “pressure”? You’re a sucker.

      • News flash: two shiploads of coal turned back to North Korea by China, denying N. K. foreign currency? You’re an ape.

      • Bwahahaha!!! A minor gesture that will not be sustained. You are sooo gullible. The Chinese are playing you for a fool just as they are your pseudocelebrity hero PT Trumpum.

      • Bwahahaha? Doesn’t that make you the villain who lives in the inactive volcano , or something. You are mixing your silly identities. Time will tell, it’s more of a “gesture” than occurred previously.

      • “Time will tell,” what a pithy observation!! Have you heard “it is what it is” yet? Or, if you go back a bit, “what will be, will be.” Brilliant insights all!!

      • Also “time tested”. Any ape can guess, but “predictions are hard to make, especially about the future” credit to L Berra. True is more useful than brilliant.

    • What was “effective” about it? Assad’s planes continued to take off from the missiled airbase. Assad responded with to the attack with barrel bombings!!! The Russians dare the US to escalate. Trump’s BS ME policy = Obama’s — i.e., inconsistent, chaotic, and ineffectual.

      • Read much?. We will find out whether or not it was effective from the response of other parties. China has already assisted with North Korea.Trump’s policy ??? Who knows what it might turn out to be. I expect situational pragmatism , whatever that might turn out to be.

      • Buy propaganda much?

        What has China done regarding N Korea to “assist” – oh, informed one – tell us?

      • Denied them foreign currency for coal, oh tree climbing one.Are there more than one of you?

      • What I’ve “read” is that China has “urged” NK to ease off their nuke weapons testing and assured NK that they (the Chinese), in turn, will protect them from the US with their carrier destroying missiles. Isn’t it great what Trump got them Chinese to do!!! Of course he had to make concessions to them and back off his accusations of currency manipulation to beg for these crumbs. Trump is a joke and you Trumpsuckers are too willfully blind to see it.

      • Laughing much? It must be great to be privy to the Trump / Xi negotiations. As usual , nobody noticed the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

  14. Can the fish swim up stream or are they stuck in a tank? There will always be a bear on the ledge, but Americans jump
    past to new prosperity.

  15. Sean Spicer is the perfect bozo for this bozo president .It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

  16. the weirdest thing is the trumpoids writing these wannabe ideological treatises on trump when in fact they just like the fact that they sent the most obvious and the most disgusting con in the country to defile the presidency. It is just like hiring prostitutes to piss in the bed where Obama slept and we all know it, so why do you waste the time on words like “aura” (Trump aura, jesus on rollerskates), “narrative”, “apostasy” etc

  17. The only sober but not quite judicious political pro in the WH is Rance Preibus and he is being sidelined more and more. The minority president has surronded himself with men and women who are richer than he is and who have absolutely no interest in the common people. Sec. De Vos just killed the Obama initiative to make college loans easier and more affordable- an issue which will resonnate with those who don’t qualify for well-endowed, needs blind admission schools but must make do with state and community colleges. The Health care law would have ended coverage for millions of people- hardly a populist message. While WH staffers struggle to be the tallest midget in the room and, above all else to remain in close proximity to the Donald lest they lose their influence- none of the secondary positions in the cabinet have been filled with the exception of the Defense department where those positions were filled by people hand-picked by the Sec. of Defense.

    Right now the Minority President is in the middle of a war not between populists and the monied classes but between his campaign promises and his donor base. All indications are that the donor base is winning. He claims to support keeping Janet Yellin, after campaigning against the Fed and now he supports the Import-Export Bank, dear to Wall St.s heart but an anthema to the Freedom Caucus. He has announced that he will stop subsidies to doctors and hospitals to force Democrats to negotiate with him to reform, since he cannot repeal, Obamacare. A stupid move since even Democrats were willing to reform some of the problems with the program before he decided to be the bully in chief. The response has been less than encouraging but turning people who are ill into politcial pawns cannot be a smart move.

    So far his wins are largely symbolic. Allowing coal companies to pollute lakes and rivers may help the companies bottom line but it sure won’t help the miners, who won’t get their jobs back, or get treated for black lung without Obamacare and expanded Medicaid. His idiotic wall has led Mexico to threaten a ban on US corn which sure won’t play well in Iowa. This President is incapable of following a consistent policy from one day to the next because he responds only to what he hears or sees on TV (and he doesn’t always understand it). He has no core beliefs; nor has he answered or put to rest the questions about how much he knew or how much his campaign worked with the Russian hackers. More revelations about those connections and neither Kellyanne conway nor Steve Bannon nor Jared Kurchner will be of much help to him.