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The Great Pumpkin Pivot is Coming!


23-donald-trump-trucks.w710.h473Above: Trump’s Move to the Left Express

I’ve observed before that lefties who are the most hardcore Eeyores about the Democratic Party — perhaps logically — also tend to be the most desperate to seize on the most threadbare evidence that fanatically right-wing Republican public officials are moving to the left and can be reasoned with. John Judis provides a classic example:

Trump, reflecting the Bannon-Breitbart style, carried his populism into the White House, as clearly reflected in his inaugural address. He also fired away before taking careful aim – on China and Taiwan, on the Muslim travel ban. And in repealing and replacing Obamacare, he put winning – that is demonstrating he could get things done – above producing legislation that reflected his own commitments to his “silent majority” to create a bill that was better than Obamacare – cheaper and more universal. Instead, he gave into what the late Jude Wanniski used to call the “throw the widows out in the snow” faction of Republicans.

To cut in for a second, if you thought there was ever any chance that Trump would propose a health care bill to the left of the ACA, I honestly don’t know what to tell you. Who was going to write this for him — Tom Price? And even if he did, so what? This isn’t 1970 and there isn’t a Democratic Congress to put liberal bills on the president’s desk.

Well, maybe change is in the air.

I’d list the following: 1) As Josh notes, the demotion of Bannon, and add to that stories that Bannon has been wanting to resign altogether out of frustration that he is not getting his way; 2) After the failure of Obamacare repeal and replace, turning his fire on the Freedom Caucus and threatening to work in the future with Democrats; 3) His National Economic Council head Gary Cohn telling bankers he favors a version of Glass-Steagall, which puts him with Bernie Sanders not Chuck Schumer; 4) Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who along with Cohn are the “Democrats” in the administration, assuming much larger and more public positions in the White House; 5) Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who in my opinion was Trump’s best cabinet pick by far, assuming control over trade policy; 6) Trump revaluating his stand on Syria and Israel-Palestine; 7) His meeting with labor leaders on infrastructure.

If you evidence that Trump is moving to the left are things like his shameless nepotism, comparisons of Gary Cohn with Bernie Sanders, Syria (whoops!), and using gullible labor leaders as a prop…again, I don’t really know what to say. On infrastructure, Yglesias is obviously right:

And to the extent that that’s news, it’s the only actual news Trump made on infrastructure. His remarks make it clear that he doesn’t know anything about the substance of the issue or about the relevant congressional procedures. He doesn’t appear to be familiar with the related provisions of his own administration’s budget, and he isn’t putting in the time to lay the political groundwork for any legislation. The trillion-dollar infrastructure plan doesn’t exist except as a line of rhetoric.

It’s pure vaporware, and unless something dramatic changes to the overall structure of the administration, it always will be.


All of which is to say that Trump isn’t going to attach a $1 trillion infrastructure plan as a sweetener to his health care bill or his tax bill for the simple reason that there is no $1 trillion infrastructure plan and never will be. Trump has no plan, and no understanding of the issue, and to the extent that his aides are involved in infrastructure, it’s to try to convince him to talk up deregulation as more important than spending money.

His budget proposal calls for spending less on infrastructure, not more; congressional Republicans don’t favor a big infrastructure boost; and even though Chuck Schumer has put a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan on the table, Trump hasn’t bothered to meet with him.

Meanwhile, the budget instructions the GOP is trying to use to pass health care in a filibuster-proof way don’t make any provision for an infrastructure plan. To incorporate infrastructure into a tax reform package, Trump would need to get those instructions into a Republican-written fiscal year 2018 budget, but there is no indication that anyone on Capitol Hill is doing this.

And even if Trump did favor a major infrastructure plan (or single payer) — and there’s no reason to believe that he does — and was developing a legislative proposal — which he plainly isn’t — how would he get Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to put these bills to a vote?

Trump’s gestures to economic populism are a an irrelevant fraud. He’s not going to suddenly reveal himself to be “an Ed Koch Democrat or an Al D’Amato Republican” and couldn’t govern that way even if he wanted to. His presidency is going to be a complete trainwreck and it will be a right-wing trainwreck.


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