“Working-class people of all colors have a lot more in common, infinitely more in common with each other than they do with some overpaid MSNBC anchor. And if you were allowed to think about that for long enough, you might start to get unauthorized ideas about economics, and that would be disruptive to a very lucrative status quo.”
On the face of it, here is a clarion call for solidarity of the working class, an exhortation to reject racial and cultural animosity and stand shoulder to shoulder against economic elites. It’s reminiscent of the words of Frederick Douglass, who wrote that the Southern landed elite “secured their ascendency over both the poor whites and the blacks by putting enmity between them. They divided both to conquer each.
But there’s a problem. The passage above was delivered by Tucker Carlson, the same Tucker Carlson who has said on Fox News that immigrants make America “poorer and dirtier.”
Imagine seeing a rich asshole making stray, cynical gestures to “economic populism” amidst a stream of racist invective on a network slavishly (and successfully) devoted to supporting the economic interests of the Koch Brothers and thinking not of, say, George Wallace but of Frederick Douglass. I can’t even.
But, then, we’re talking about someone who, after three years of Trump retaining the enthusiastic support of his base by offering all the racism he promised with the Ryanomics he also promised if you were actually paying attention, STILL thinks Trump’s appeal was based on ECONOMIC ANXIETY:
Enter Donald Trump, a man apart. A billionaire, yes, but one who had little reverence for the stodgy experts whose graphs proved the struggling worker was a loser worthy of his lot. Trump spoke of the need to stay out of costly and stupid military adventures while people back home struggled to put food on the table. He promised to stop trade deals that bled jobs from whole regions, leaving husks of towns beleaguered by poverty and drug addiction and engulfed in gloom.
This is perhaps even more remarkable:
It’s impossible to ascertain how much of Carlson’s own economic populist rhetoric he believes, given the vast array of motives that might be driving his ideological shift. In the end, it hardly matters. What’s important is that he represents the canny adjustment of the conservative project to the realities of the present moment — replaying the old Gingrich- and Bush-era classics wouldn’t get them anywhere with the public today.
THERE HAS BEEN NO ADJUSTMENT TO THE CONSERVATIVE PROJECT! Jesus Christ, Trump’s centerpiece legislation was a massive upper-class tax cut and his other domestic priorities have been dismantling the federal regulatory state and confirming neoconfederate judges who will confound the next Democratic administration — including a potential Sanders administration — at every turn. This service to the most powerful interests has been paired with empty attacks on “elites” because it always has been. Trump is not running a new or transformative playbook; he’s running the same one with more explicit racism than has been common from national political figures since the 60s. That’s it. The idea that there’s some massive gulf between Gingrich and Trump could not be more wrong. That this is coming from someone who continues to assert that Elizabeth Warren is a massive phony just makes it even more ridiculous.
Looking forward to the next issue, when the profile of Tucker shows off his working class solidarity by pointing out that he put on Kenny G. while arguing that comic books sold out when they started to be written by and for women,alongside an article asserting that Elizabeth Warren’s dancing is neoliberalism at its worst.
…to add one point, the critical error in the analysis is that apparent assumption that Bush/Gingrich era Republicans talked like Gordon Gekko, which makes isolated gestures of economically populist rhetoric by figures like Tucker and Trump somehow transformative. But this is bizarre, ahistorical nonsense. Not only did George W. Bush talk a big game about “compassionate conservatism,” he even signed an (admittedly corporate-pork-laden) expansion of Medicare! To the extent that Trump-era Republicans have made “adjustments,” it’s that they’ve become even more racist to cover up the fact that they’ve moved even further to the right on economics. The idea that Trump’s appeal is actually based on these isolated gestures is simply not true.
…also, since a commenter draws attention to the Donald the Dove “costly military adventures” stuff, it’s worth noting what the actual Donald Trump was saying about defense spending on the stump in 2016:
Donald Trump on Wednesday called for eliminating the sequester on defense spending and increasing military spending to boost troop levels and the number of ships and aircraft.Trump said in a speech to the Union League of Philadelphia that he will ask Congress to reverse cuts to defense spending enacted under the 2013 budget sequester once he takes office and submit a new budget to rebuild the US military, which Trump described as unprepared to confront the threats the US faces.Trump did not say whether the increase in military spending would match or exceed pre-sequester funding levels, but a senior campaign aide said Trump would most likely seek to boost defense spending to higher levels than when the sequester went into effect in 2013 after Congress failed to reach a new budget agreement, slashing both defense and domestic spending.Trump did not outline how large the increase would be, but the senior campaign aide said eliminating the sequester would amount to a roughly $500 billion reinvestment over 10 years, which Trump said he would seek to “fully offset” through “common sense reforms that eliminate government waste and budget gimmicks.””History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military dominance,” Trump said as he lamented the cuts to defense spending, which he said is “on track to fall to its lowest level as a share of the economy.” The US spent more than $600 billion in defense spending in 2015.
Trump wasn’t saying we needed to cut back on the military to spend it on other things, not at all. But it’s telling if that’s what you heard.