Trump 2.0: You ain’t seen nothing yet

Jorge A. Bañales

Donald J. Trump is disappointing those alarmists who saw in him a would-be dictator. He lacks the sense of history and the political astuteness which build a demagogue up to a leader. The major and long-term menaces to democracy come from the millions of Trump loyalists, and from whoever is able to expand the movement.

 

On the lookout

 

Lurking among the millions who could become president there is someone who has paid thorough attention to the Trump phenomenon and who is preparing a power grab without precedents in the history of the United States. It could be a man, or it could be a woman; this person could be referred to as Trump 2.0.

You might expect Trump 2.0 to be a white man, but if this person is clever enough, the prize could go to a woman, a dark-skinned person, a homosexual and even to a non-Christian. The reason:  demographics. Yes those whom the Census Bureau identify as “whites” are still a majority.  But immigration, school integration, along with interracial marriages and same-sex marriages are eroding the walls of prejudice. A shrewd Trump 2.0 might exploit any minority trait he possesses. After all, Adolf Hitler wasn’t exactly a model of the blue-eyed, blond, and white-skinned Aryan prototype he promoted, and Juan Perón was an officer in a pro-Fascist military when he became the Argentine workers’ champion.

 

Opportunism

The first important lesson to be derived from Donald J. Trump: ideology or political affiliations are irrelevant. It is quite possible that Trump 2.0 counts himself among the 90 million people eligible to vote but who didn’t vote in the 2016 elections. These are people who didn’t care to vote because they didn’t see much difference between being lied to by Trump or by Hillary Clinton. These are people who don’t pledge any party allegiance that might have brought them to the polls out of mere discipline.

Another important lesson, this one not coming from Trump but from voters, is that democracy may not be that strong in the United States. Americans, or at least a substantial portion of the voting population in the United States, have proved to be as pliable as Europeans or Latin Americans to the nationalistic rhetoric, xenophobia and fearmongering antics of demagogues.

Trump 2.0 is the outsiders’ outsider. He will be able to promise anything and contradict himself at every step because, just as Donald Trump, he can claim that he is not a politician. With the very convenient definition of a politician as a liar, he will be able to outlie politicians and profit from it. He will be able to abuse and insult, or to praise and charm anyone in any way required at the moment to advance his career.

So far, not much of a difference with Donald Trump.

The big difference, however, is that Trump 2.0 has a defined plan, craves power more than adulation, yearns for a place in history more than short-term public approval. And, whereas Donald Trump is just vicious, Trump 2.0 is dangerous.

 

Demolition crew

 

Trump is not the cause of the system’s collapse, he is just providing the push.

All kind of surveys and studies of social trends have shown, in the past decades, a loss of confidence among Americans in their institutions including the three branches of government, churches, the media, political parties, and labor unions. Donald Trump added to that by making truth a negotiable item subject to his “art of the deal.”

But Trump is shortsighted, without intellectual curiosity. He is committing political suicide. As Neill Irwin pointed in The New York Times, “Trump is offering populism, minus the free candy.” Every single successful caudillo has provided the masses with instant gratification: jobs and pride to Germans under Nazi rule; subsidized housing, health care and education to Argentines under Peronism; egalitarian housing, health care and education for free under Castroism.

Trump has delivered nothing to his most fervent followers, and he is offering even less to the undecided. Trump 2.0 can see that delivering more candy to the rich doesn’t produce more votes at election time.

Donald Trump has also apparently forgotten Strategy 101, if he even ever learned it: you don’t win by multiplying your adversaries and unifying your enemies, but by seducing –or in Trumpspeak: cutting deals- with the former, and dividing the latter.

Someone, like Trump 2.0, with a more developed political instinct would act to expand his base instead of shrinking it. Trump 2.0 knows that the proud “deplorables” would follow him no matter what, and that he needs to draw others into his camp.

Trump 2.0 has probably studied Hitler, Mussolini, and also Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet: they were not instruments of the wealthy, they used and abused the wealthy in order to bolster their own personal power. An endeavor beyond Donald Trump’s acumen.

 

The real thing

 

Leftists, Liberals, environmentalists, labor unionists, pacifists, feminists, Hispanic and Black activists, Liberation Theology Christians, and almost everyone else horrified by Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, have shared in one degree or another the nightmares of doom, dictatorship and war.

And it might still happen, but Trump won’t make it happen. A major terrorist attack in the United States would have people clamoring for security, which in real life translates to a stronger police state. An economic downturn would have people demanding more government intervention. An armed conflict overseas will have people rallying to the government.

But, instead of awaiting his game changer, Trump 2.0 would have the vision and the intelligence to make it happen.

What are the major issues worrying Americans today? The rest of the world may believe that foreign policy is a key issue for Americans. It is not. Just as foreign policy is not a major issue for Chileans, Romanians or Australians. Americans worry mostly about what touches their daily lives, their families, their finances.

Take healthcare, for example. The Obama Administration created a plan hated by conservatives which has brought some benefits and new headaches. Trump has promised to repeal Obamacare and produce a new, wonderful system in which everyone would get health care and pay little for it.

But so far, nothing. Trump doesn’t have a plan, and the Republicans who are supposed to be his party in Congress can only rejigger ideas to cut health care for the poor and the elderly.

Trump 2.0 would deal with the true problem, which is ripe for the old and tested tactic of blaming a small group for big evils.

Healthcare in the United States is a business, as if people could choose to be sick or not as they choose whether or not to buy a new vacuum cleaner. Private insurance companies control healthcare to secure increasing returns to their stockholders. And, instead of good health outcomes, people are prescribed medications.

Major drivers of health care costs in the United States are the mega-hospitals run by for-profit corporations, the for-profit insurance companies, and the for-profit drug manufacturers.

The Obama Administration didn’t have the guts to establish a public option system as a viable competitor for the private-sector health care business. The Trump Administration and the Republican Party are bereft of viable solutions. All this irresolution is bringing the public around to a single-payer national health care system, and then to demand it. Trump 2.0 would not wait for this to happen on its own. He would take the lead.

Trump 2.0, a true populist, would first call the culprits “Insuraleeches” with luxurious corporate offices, and drug-peddling “Big Pharmpires.” Then, he would summon the heads of the health care business to the White House, and he would give them a 30-day deadline to figure out how to cut their profits, lower costs in hospitals and for medications, avoid unnecessary and expensive tests, and regulate the physicians’ fees. And, if they didn’t do it, Trump 2.0 would lead the festival of abuse on cable television.

Declining real wages deterioration? Trump 2.0 would propose a 100 percent increase in minimum wages to $15/hour across the nation. And let politicians join his quest or face their voters. People working for minimum wages are not a substantial portion of the country’s workforce, but a raise in their wages would bring them into his camp.

Immigration? Most Americans want a comprehensive reform of the immigration system, but they do not support Donald Trump’s hints of massive raids and the deportation of 11 million people. Trump 2.0, his eyes always on the goal of gaining more power, would recognize that these people are already here, they are part of the economy, and they won’t just disappear. He would offer an amnesty to all undocumented immigrants who have committed no crimes, with a fast-track path to citizenship to those who have been in the country for more than five years. You can bet that Trump 2.0’s party will have the immigrants’ vote for the next generation.

Jobs? Yes, the answer has already been tested: infrastructure. Trump 2.0 would not just talk, as Donald Trump has done, about a multi-billion dollar program to repair, build or improve airports, schools, highways, ports, the power grid and the communications networks. Trump 2.0 would call the labor union leaders to the White House and instruct them to mobilize their members as agitators across the nation to demand public works. And then he would grant management contracts to union leaders.

The environment and energy? Trump 2.0, just as his predecessor, most probably doesn’t care about the issue one way or the other, but he can see that alternative sources of energy produce jobs, and caring for the environment is a serious concern for younger voters. On the other hand, bringing back jobs in the coal industry –even if that was possible- yields fewer votes than a policy pleasing the tree-huggers. There are more jobs –and votes- in Silicon Valley than in Coal Country.

Student debt, housing? Since the Great Recession, banks have been piling up money. Trump 2.0 would offer legislation slashing students’ debt, and easing credit to buy houses. He would call banks “cash cows,” and bankers “mean plutocrats,” and squeeze them. Should the bankers want to play rough, Trump 2.0 would unleash the angry crowds on them with Occupy Wall Street activists marching in front.

Some of these policies of instant gratification could have a negative impact on the U.S. economy but that is what wars are for. If, after gaining popular support with authentic populism, Trump 2.0 sees favorable opinion wavering, he would not hesitate to find a war to unify the nation and consolidate his power. That’s also what dirty tricks are for, a lesson that escaped Donald Trump: you do not mess with the intelligence agencies. You use them. A timely terrorist act would silence all critics.

Would the media be an obstacle for Trump 2.0? No. Most Americans already trust little in the “mainstream media,” rabidly despised by the Right and deeply distrusted by Left. Maybe a few “spontaneous” assaults by irate patriots on local media reporters, and mysterious accidents or even disappearances of a couple of vain big-time anchormen/women or aggressive reporters, would send the message: freedom of the press is passé. How many Americans would go to the streets to defend the news media?

Conservative intellectuals and commentators such as Mark Levin are fond of dwelling on the difference between democracy and republic, and they emphasize that their nation is the one and only true republic. The challenge to both democracy and republic in the United States is not Donald Trump. It is that yet unknown person who is learning from Trump’s flaws and the millions of voters eager to hoist him up to power.

 

 

 

 

You must be logged in to post a comment Login