What Trump has wrought


Just a few short months ago, we seemed on the brink of a new political era. Donald Trump improbably was headed to the White House, while the Democratic Party, at near historic lows in statehouse power and without control of either house of Congress, seemed to be facing a lengthy period in political purgatory.

Today some progressive voices still see a “bleak” future, but it is increasingly the Republican Party, and its shattered conservative core, that is reeling. Bitterly divided among themselves, and led by a petulant president with record-low ratings, the Republicans seem to be headed to a major crash just six months after a surprising victory.

Gone from view now are visions of a renewed Republican Party uniting its traditional base with historically Democratic parts of Middle America. Rather than a realignment in the mode of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan, the Trump administration seems to be devolving into a remarkably early interregnum, a pause between alternating progressive eras.

Trump supporters, not Trump, the real losers

Donald Trump’s nationalist agenda started with a natural appeal to much ignored non-cosmopolitan America. Unlike the seemingly diffident and distant Barack Obama, Trump offered a laser-like focus on growing high-wage jobs for the declining middle and working classes. A reform agenda on everything from deregulation and taxes seemed to have the potential to escape the low-growth “new normal” and restore broad-based opportunity across the country.

Due to his obsession with media relations and personal peccadilloes, Trump now has managed to undermine any chance of developing a coherent program to restore dynamism in Middle America. Although some regulatory relief has been imposed, mainly by reversing President Obama’s rule-by-decree, the president has failed to pass a program — for example, new infrastructure spending — that might expand productivity and expand employment opportunities. Instead, he has regressed, in his rare coherent moments, to the GOP corporatist, free-market theology, which threatens many entitlements, notably health care, on which so many Trump voters now depend.

Trump’s failure to achieve long-term change will end up hurting not just his precious “brand,” but, more importantly, voters and states that backed him. To many who work in manufacturing, energy, homebuilding or agriculture, the president seemed to be a savior. Now these industries may only have four years — at most — before the hammer comes down again, with only the U.S. Supreme Court serving as a possible restraint.

Read the entire piece at the Orange Country Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo by Michael Vadon, obtained via Flickr, using the CC License.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Gangster politics as the new normal

Federal DOT money's being spent in a certain southern state in return, probably, for delivering it to the family last November. At $6 million a pop, new rest stops appear to modernize infrastructure in rural America and help Middle Americans enjoy their travels without stopping at more costly commercial centers on their way. The state's two biggest industries, tourism and construction, appear to benefit greatly.

Except that they don't. The stops are redundant and employ nobody, except a couple of itinerant cleaning people, once they become operational. In other places, underused highway rest stops are closing. In a state with vanishing wilderness and crumbling roads, the surrounding rural communities don't use them or need them. They'll become a maintenance and safety burden on a future generation that will likely have to close them once a new family is in power.

They're like a horrid nightmare of WPA-style makework in an era where federal largesse is bestowed, like payoffs, between political families. Politicians can pat themselves on the back; in the meantime the money is saved from being spent on actual needs that might improve the lives of the very voters that brought all this about in the first place.

And so America devolves into a twilight state of juice payments, where disloyalty is punished gangster-style and flashy showmanship distracts people from what is really going on. Growth is over; we now have a full-on war to seize control of the assets.

Richard T. Reep, AIA, LEED-AP
Adjunct Professor, Rollins College
Senior Architect

Turn off cable TV news

Trump’s failure to achieve long-term change...

He's been in office three months. Tune out the Clinton News Network/PMS-NBC hysterics and you'll find that Trump's voters aren't all that upset or worried. The same polls that peg Trump's popularity in the tank now swore that Hillary had a 98% chance of winning just days before the election.

Money talks:

The DNC raised $4.7 million in April. Meanwhile, the RNC raised $9.6 million in April. The RNC has $41 million cash on hand. and the DNC $8.8 million.

Meantime, we've got one outstanding Supreme Court Justice with a promise of more to come, and a generally excellent cabinet with the exception of drug warrior Sessions.

Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Roulette Wheel Still Spinning

It's still too early to call this game. However, Trump was always a gamble. Even his supporters knew that going in. He was a bet taken because (i) the two political parties proved utterly incapable of offering a worthy candidate, and (ii) the GOP in particular has disgraced itself in the past 15 years and has lost its base, to whom it responded via its established media organs with the same derision as Democrats, further proving the base's point.

And I am fascinated that so many people ostensibly of neutral good will--like Kotkin--assign supreme significance to Trump's Twitter follies, as though a President communicating with The People via Current Fashion, such as Obama who routinely debased himself and the office on TV comedy shows, is some novel development that per se demonstrates his unfitness or instability, and assign only a minor supporting role, if they even acknowledge it at all, to the fact that since before he was sworn in Trump has been actively and openly sabotaged and undermined by the very government he ostensibly leads, with the national media joyously piling on.

If Trumps presidency fails it will be mostly owing to the self-fulfilling prophecy of people whose views should be given little credit in the first place. I suppose that wags can always retreat into the opinion that US democracy is a blood sport after all (except when a black man or, eventually, a woman is president, in which case it is just meanness and __ism at work) and that it is the job of the media as well as of the bureaucracy to constantly undermine the president because that's how a president's mettle is properly tested.