In The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly, Paul Krugman wrote, “How much difference has it made, really, that Donald Trump rather than a conventional Republican sits in the White House?” This is something that I’ve been talking about since well before Trump won the election, much less became — the words still come hard — President Trump.
The truth is that for all Trump’s notable failures — American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the courts striking down his racist immigration orders — he’s done a whole lot of harm to the nation that any other Republican would have done. But these things don’t get much attention. Sometimes they do when the irony is too delicious. For example, there’s his change of coal policy that won’t actually increase the number of coal jobs. Meanwhile, his proposed dismantling of Obamacare and his proposed budget do great harm (even to the point of causing many deaths) of those people waiting for the promised coal jobs.
Babies, Little Babies
And last night we had another great example of this. On Wednesday, Trump was outraged about the chemical attacks in Syria. He said, “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines.”
So he launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria. But allowing those “babies, little babies” to get shelter here, oh no! That’s a bridge too far. According to The Telegraph, our bombing killed four children. But it isn’t known if they were “babies, little babies.”
But the question that Krugman raised stands: how is Trump different from any other Republican we would have elected? I’d say that he’s less competent and therefore slightly less dangerous on the domestic front. But he’s also impulsive, which makes him more dangerous internationally. But mostly, Trump is just an empty vessel that the Republican Party elite can fill up with whatever they want. Thus: Trump is, on a practical level, the very definition of a Republican Party elite.
Trump and Bush and Rubio, Oh My!
This is exactly what we would have expected had we elected Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Far from draining the swamp, he’s installed a device to remove pure water and replace it with toxic material. He’s the best thing Paul Ryan could hope for, because when it comes to the things that Ryan cares about, Ryan might as well be president.
In the early days, the Republican establishment didn’t like Trump for two reasons. First, they thought he couldn’t win a general election. (They, like me, were thinking of America as a democracy; they weren’t thinking that Trump could get 3 million less votes and still become president.) But more than that, they were against him for the same reason I was somewhat positive toward him: his rhetoric indicated that he was an actual populist. Sure, he was a racist (that’s not a problem with Republican Party elite), but it sounded like he might be a fighter for the American worker.
Then, in late September of 2015, came his tax plan. That’s when the Republican Party elite knew he was no threat to them. His tax “reform” plan was even more regressive than the other Republican contenders’. Even though he said it was going to cost him a fortune, it turned out that it was going to make him a fortune. It was going to cut the taxes of the top 1% by twice as much as Jeb Bush’s plan was going to.
Trump Is a Puppet of the Republican Party Elite
But cutting taxes is probably the only issue that Trump has any opinions on. The rest is just whatever the Republicans say they are for. Think about the AHCA. Trump could have said that it didn’t meet the promises he had made to his voters. Indeed, it did the opposite. Instead of increasing the numbers covered and decreasing the cost, it decreased (drastically) the numbers covered and increased the cost. (In the long-term, it would have cut the cost of insurance because the people who actually needed it couldn’t afford it — but that’s not making insurance cheaper.) But he just went along with it, because Donald Trump is nothing by a puppet of the Republican Party elite.
Despite how horrible this is for the country and all the people who will die because Donald Trump is just another Republican, it’s funny. I know: a lot of Republicans voted for him just because he was the Republican candidate. And they are getting just what they wanted. But the roughly half of the people who voted for him because they thought he was something new, they got conned in the biggest way. Oh sure, they mostly voted for him because both he and they are bigots. But they aren’t getting anything special for that other than the warm feeling of knowing that the president is as vile as you.
Trump: Just Another Republican
This is why I get tired of the constant focus on Trump. If Marco Rubio were our president right now, very little would be different. In fact, things might be worse. The media would be less likely to call him out on his lies. And he might have been more effective. But overall, it’s a wash. Donald Trump is a disgusting and vile man. But as President of the United States? He’s just another Republican.