Donald Trump: Nelson Rockefeller’s Revenge?

Thus far, there appears to be only one truism about Donald Trump: You can’t believe a word he says.

But what matters is what Trump would actually do as a head of state, not what he says to the press or during campaign speeches. His track record indicates that he normally assumes whatever position is convenient at the moment, and whatever will play the best to the audience of the hour. Throughout his career as a public figure, he’s been on virtually every side of every issue. Now that he has the GOP nomination in the bag he’s already moving to the center, and the general election season hasn’t even started yet. Trump will likely govern as an unprincipled centrist in roughly the same manner as Bill Clinton, not because he’s a closet Clintonite, but because that’s how pursuing politics as “the art of the deal” is actually done, i.e. playing off different interests against one another. Trump will “make America great again” in the same way that Reagan “got the government off our backs” or that Obama brought us “hope and change.”

Trump is pursuing the presidency for the same reason he pursues celebrity recognition, business deals, and supermodel wives. It’s all about the glory of Trump, not carrying out some kind of right-wing revolution. The debate about Trump often consists of leftists who think Trump is some kind of right-wing, racist, fascist, nationalist, revolutionary and think that’s awful, and rightists who share the same assessment of Trump and think that’s wonderful. But both assessments seem to me at least to be a matter of false perceptions. Trump is against gun control, except for when he’s against it. He’s pro life, except for when he supports Planned Parenthood. He’s against the Israel Lobby, except for when he kowtows to AIPAC. He’s the peace candidate except for when he wants to “bomb the shit” out of someone. He’s for tax reform that’s “negotiable.” He’s for immigration restriction except for when illegals are working in his business, and he wants to give illegal immigrants a pathway to return after they’ve been deported. He’s a social conservative who thinks it’s fine to let transexuals in the ladies room. He’s against gay marriage except for when he’s for it. I could go on. This guy changes positions on issues like underwear.

He has been a fairly consistent economic nationalist and opposed neoliberal “free trade” deals throughout his career, so I’ll give him that, though I don’t that he would actually do anything about it. And he doesn’t seem to have the zeal for antagonizing Russia that the neocons do so he’s certainly superior to them (but then who isn’t?)

The two most important issues for the USA right now are avoiding an escalation of conflict with Russia, and thwarting the neocons plans for war with Iran. Trump may well be better than the Dragon Lady on those two issues given that the neocons are defecting to her camp. Trump has done a service to humanity by knocking the neocons and Conservatism, Inc to the sidelines. Other than that, this guy is a farce.

Ironically, if Trump is successful at permanently marginalizing the neocons and Conservatism, Inc (and good for him if he accomplishes that) all that it means is that US politics would return to what it was in the 1970s before the coup by the neocon/neoliberal alliance, with the same range of ideological perspectives more or less being represented. I guess we could say that Trump is “Nelson Rockefeller’s revenge.”

One thing many people don’t seem to realize is that all the “Reagan Revolution” of the 1980s really did was slow down the rapid leftward drift of the 1960s and 1970s. Reagan did not govern any further rightward than JFK, and his successors Bush 1 and Clinton were essentially Rockefeller Republicans (literally, in the case of Bush 1 and de facto in the case of Clinton). The Bush 2 administration was mostly a reincarnation of the welfare-warfare state of LBJ (complete with the state department socialists turned neocons pushing for war with the rest of the world). As I wrote in 2003, ” The liberal orientation of the supposedly “conservative” Bush administration-Keynesian economics, nationalized education, massive subsidies to “curing AIDS in Africa”, the liberal “constitution” to be imposed on Iraq, proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants- attests to this.”

And Bruce Bartlett has argued, Obama is just a return of Nixon’s postgame show to LBJ. If we wanted to compare today’s politicians to those of yesteryear, I’d say Hillary is Nixon, Trump is Nelson Rockefeller, Sanders is an old fashioned New Deal Democrat (or at least that’s what he’s running as), Gary Johnson is a liberal Republican just like his running mate Bill Weld, and Jill Stein of the Greens is the only actual liberal in the contest.

It’s regrettable that so many people evaluate politicians on the basis of their image, persona, lifestyle, party affiliation or fans rather than their actual policies. In every primary area of policy, Hillary is Nixon, and so for that matter is Obama. The only difference is that U.S. culture has drifted so far left since the 1970s that an African-American president and a woman who personifies 70s feminism can actually get elected to high office, only to pursue what are essentially old-fashioned moderate Republican policies.

This presidential election is basically a contest between a Nixon (Clinton) and a Nelson Rockefeller (Trump).

In the 80s, the Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan right-wing Republicans joined forces with the former Trotskyists turned right-wing social democratic/radical Zionist turned Republican neocons, and successfully continued Nixon’s southern strategy as an electoral maneuver with the additional benefit to themselves of being able to successfully organize the religious right, and this coalition became “Conservatism” which was really just a turn towards right-wing plutocratic (Reaganomics, “free trade’), imperialist (“Operation Rollback“), police statism (“War on Drugs“). Before that the Republicans were really just the moderate classical liberal party of northern industrial capitalism they had been since they started in the 1850s. Noam Chomsky discusses that briefly in this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57mi_RpaZr4

I discuss the history of the “conservative movement” and what it really was in this article for Taki’s mag: http://takimag.com/…/the_failure_of_conservatism/print…and I summarized what “movement conservatism” has really been about at the end of the Taki Mag article:

“Conservatism has succeeded in achieving only one of its stated goals and that is the permanent escalation of the military budget and the permanent expansion of America’s foreign military presence. On every other issue claimed by this brand of conservatism (a misnomer?), the level of failure is overwhelming. Rolling back the welfare state? “Big government” is now bigger and more expansive than ever. Fiscal restraint? The U.S. public debt is larger than ever to the point where America biggest debtor in world history. Social conservatism and traditional values? America is a more culturally leftist and egalitarian society today than ever before, and leads the world in the advancement of “diversity” and the fight against intolerance.

Indeed, given the phenomenal success of the “conservatives” in expanding military spending and military interventionism, and their phenomenal failure everything else, one might be tempted to argue that the former was the only issue that ever really mattered all along, and that the grassroots economic, fiscal, social, cultural, religious and patriotic conservatives who comprised the activist base and key voting blocks were, to use an ironic Leninist term, nothing more than “useful idiots.”

I also made an extended version of this same argument in a chapter for this book.

Those articles were written largely for conservatives audiences that were actually true believers in the “conservative cause.” What I was basically telling them was “You guys got duped and then stabbed in the back big time!” Ironically, the same thing is now happening with this alt-right movement. The alt-right has barely gotten off the ground and it’s already being coopted into Donald Trump’s hucksterism. He’s taking them for a ride the way Nixon did with George Wallace fans and Reagan did with the religious right. Trump’s “right-wing populism” is just a replay of Nixon’s southern strategy or Reagan’s throwing crumbs to the religious right. It’s funny how the Left waxes hysterical about the imminent fascist coup when all of Trump’s right-populist rhetoric that is just a sham as it was with Reagan and Nixon.

Nor do I think a Trump presidency will be the end of political correctness. If anything, the Left will be galvanized to the point of non-stop hysteria with constant refrains about imminent genocide. Ironically, I don’t think Trump himself would do much to end PC, either. As I said above, he’s already praised Planned Parenthood, defended allowing trannies in the ladies room, said he would be open to having Muslims in his cabinet, and suggested illegal immigrants be given a path to return legally after they’ve been deported (which means he’s not really for deportation to start with, and his business record shows that). It’s not a question of whether one agrees or disagrees with Trump on these things as much as the point that his supposed socially conservative populist-nationalism is obviously insincere.

He’s attacking the neocons for their warmongering while sucking up to AIPAC and Henry Kissinger. He’s telling Megyn Kelly his priorities are to “rebuild the military” (an apparently infinite need) and pushing “tax cuts” as a universal cure all. These are just standard brand Republican talking points. Seriously, could this dude be any more of a shyster? He’s saying the GOP will be a “workers party” the same week he’s surrounding himself with first-generation supply-siders like Arthur Laffer. Recycled Reaganomics is not exactly the workers’ party. The GOP is and has always has been the party of American capitalism. That will never change, and capitalism is inherently un-conservative. I remember backin the 80s some religious right leaders like Richard Viguerie and others were always threatening to form a “Christian third party” if the GOP didn’t take them seriously. We know how well that turned out. I suspect the alt-right, new right, radical right, and populist-right fans of Trump will suffer a similar disappointment if he is elected President. As I said above, Reagan didn’t actually govern any further to the right than JFK just like Dubya was basically a reincarnation of LBJ. I suspect a Trump administration would probably be a lot like what a Nelson Rockefeller presidency might have been.

Trump’s not doing anything new. He’s just reading from the standard Republican playbook. Run to the right, get the nomination, move to the center, crossover to the left. Recall remember the Reagan Democrats or Nixon’s institutionalization of all the left-wing programs begun under LBJ?)

It’s pretty clear at this point that Trump is going to be just another establishment politician. He started out as Pat Buchanan or George Wallace, then he transformed himself into Ross Perot, and, once again, he’s increasingly becoming Nelson Rockefeller (i.e. a billionaire plutocrat moderate to liberal statist authoritarian imperalist with a penchant for women and bad manners). This guy is basically the revenge of Rockefeller who was never able to make it to the presidency because he kept getting bypassed by the either the Goldwater-Reagan Sun Belt insurgency (or by Nixon who played the Rockefeller and Sun Belt wings of the GOP off against one another).

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