No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump
It’s often said that Barack Obama’s principal legacy was Donald Trump. Soon, Joe Biden’s main legacy also may be Trump. In both cases, Trump could be seen as a broad-based, middle-class populist reaction to massive overreach by progressives, their powerful supporters in the media and tech communities, and a firmly entrenched, permanent bureaucracy.
Modern politics in the superpower states — whether in the United States, China or Russia — has become a crucible of hardball, winner-take-all, merciless strategies and tactics, utilizing every vehicle available to prevail. In the American model, political leaders, successfully emerging from that crucible and equipped to govern, must be prepared to fully co-opt the progressive left or be strong enough to resist it, as well as prepared to resist the ill-defined, but highly effective, political magnetism of Trump. The far left-leaning Democratic Party leadership in the House and Senate has been effective in aligning with and partially co-opting the radical progressives. Trump has been very effective at building a populist movement to confront and resist both progressives and the permanent bureaucracy.
Neither radical path represents good governance or a sustainable long-term direction for America. They are highly divisive. Many Americans understand that, and it leaves a centrist path open to any moderate Democrats, Republicans or independents with the political skills, personal strength and resources to resist the radical left, the media, the entrenched bureaucracy and Trump.
Many Americans feel, with some justification, that liberal Democrats appear to have fully corrupted the media and perhaps even weaponized parts of the federal justice, national security and, recently, health agencies as active arms of their political agenda. The result has begun to feel to a large portion of the country like increased authoritarianism and radical government.
But, the left has made the deadly error of making its plans and tactics increasingly obvious. The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and the $1.75 trillion social spending bill (some estimate its real price at closer to $4 trillion) most likely will represent a disastrous $5 trillion in new spending. When combined with the destruction of America’s energy independence and renewed allowance for states and local governments to subsidize increased spending through higher federal income tax deductions, the spending will lead to skyrocketing inflation, higher taxes and interest rates, a slowing economy, higher unemployment and increased misery among the middle class and the poor — precisely the opposite of what is being claimed by the sponsors.
They will have weakened the economy, destroyed the jobs-creating machinery, weakened national security, and shown their authoritarian fists in implementing their programs. They have flooded the country with illegal border crossers, allowed an explosion of crime and drug deaths, and confronted parents over how to raise and teach their children. They have allowed cities to be trashed and burned and ordinary citizens of all races to be terrorized, beaten and killed.
Re-enter Trump. He has shown himself to be unique among moderate and right-leaning leaders in having the populist charisma, personal resources and single-minded determination to resist, confront and occasionally defeat the progressive left and the entrenched bureaucracy. But his highly-flawed style and personal behavior make him distasteful to moderates, many conservatives and others favoring decorum, graciousness, orderly process and personal consideration from America’s leaders. He has treated opponents, and often his own staff, with relentless derision and disrespect.
While not governing as a racist, Trump certainly seemed to use racist “dog whistles” to secure the 2016 Republican nomination and occasionally as president. He had a successful economic program thanks to his embrace of Paul Ryan’s tax reforms, his dogged trade representatives, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s diplomacy — little of which he recognizes. Trump governed as a moderate with the lowest unemployment rates for Blacks, Hispanics and women in history, while increasing real wages across the board. Carbon emissions were some of the lowest in a decade.
Trump’s firm, but restrained, foreign policy kept America out of new shooting wars, and prevented increased aggression from Russia, China, North Korea or Iran. He created effective peace treaties in the Middle East. But many moderates feel he was totally self-absorbed and obnoxious while he accomplished all of this — and have trouble stomaching another, possibly inevitable, round of Trump in the White House.
Nonetheless, the apparent incompetence and radical progressive direction of the Biden administration is bleeding reluctant moderates and independents toward Trump as the lesser of two evils. In short, Biden and the radical left are creating a massive political vacuum in America, which Trump will fill unless a very strong alternative surfaces.
This is no time for the timid. Trump has become a political colossus and he must be confronted by another charismatic leader with personal determination, huge political and management skills, an effective populist message, and personal access to vast resources to confront powerful political blocs, most of the media, and the permanent bureaucracy. It must be a populist leader with the personal energy to barnstorm America — the oxymoron “extreme-moderate” with the courage, skill and resources to confront both Trump and the progressives.
Biden has lost his magic beans. The stalk is starting to grow. The giant is coming. Who knows Jack (or Jacqueline)? Tell them to bring a sharp ax.
Grady Means is a writer (GradyMeans.com) and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @gradymeans1.