Trump Remains Free To Fly His Own Flag
This week’s Senate appearance by U.S. attorney general Bill Barr represent the Democrats’ final chance to pick over the bones of the Mueller Inquiry into Russian collusion. Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nomination posed, Republicans smug with Trump’s vindication deposed and Barr generally amused himself batting away the faux outrage.
With Barr’s conclusion of no collusion, Trump had escaped the clutches of his haters— as he had in 2016 and then 2018. He is now free to size up the Democrat field for 2020. Here’s my column from just after the 2018 midterms when it became clear that Trump was now going to sail under his own flag, not Republican, not Democrat.
“Trump’s economic nationalism doesn’t care about your race. It cares if you’re a citizen. We’re at the beginning of a new populist revolution. The only question is: Is it going to be a nationalist or socialist populism? The party of Davos is done.”— Steve Bannon
When Steve Bannon delivered this comment most of the audience assembled in Toronto to hear him debate author David Frum considered it a laugh line. The media executive, political figure, former investment banker and ex-Donald Trump guru was declaring that his former ally would be seen, in the fullness of time, as a transformative person, a populist who shaped the world in ways Barack Obama could never dream of.
The downtown Toronto crowd was amused by Bannon’s bold proclamation. Trump? A figure of significance? To them, Trump is a boor, a down-market race baiter and a hustler in the presidency only to enrich himself and his family. It is the convenient stereotype of the New York City developer that appeals to them, one invoked over and over in the run-up to this week’s midterm elections in the U.S.
While this chic snobbery grates on Trump, he’s also not afraid to leverage it. The nasty exchange between Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta at the White House press room (last November) tells you how desperate the “party of Davos” is to get rid of him before he accumulates any more power and influence over their destinies. So he played Acosta’s brazen hostitlity for all it was worth, pulling Acosta’s press credentials.
As the chaotic days following the election showed, he has led them a on grim chase, redefining the rules by which the political game is played. His strategy is instinctive, feral, rude— not the polished statesman of Obama’s florid speeches so beloved by a gushing media and Hollywood elites.
As Bannon suggests, they want him to submit to their worldview where everything is defined by racial and class identities. He refuses. Which doubles their efforts to have him submit. And doubles his resistance to seeing the world via Obama’s identity politics.
This is why the comfortable and powerful alike feel they have to eliminate him. Defiance cannot be permitted.
This cozy establishment of both the Democrat and Republican parties had their best shot at stopping him in this election. It was their chance to prove that November 2016 was the product of 10,000 monkeys writing Shakespeare. They’d hurled two years of uninterrupted abuse, accusation, insinuation and downright libel at the TV star with the gaudy tan and elaborate coiffure.
The media and culture industries like SNL had marshalled their most vile slurs and progressive talking points to stop him. The wind was at their backs.
Yet all this only resulted in the Dems assuming the House of Representatives. Trump’s loss of 41 seats in his first midterm was mild compared to the House losses suffered since WWII by Barack Obama (60), Bill Clinton (69), Lyndon Johnson (51), Harry Truman (57) and Gerald Ford (59) .
In the Senate, where he controls the Supreme Court and other judgeships, Trump picked up three new seats to buttress his hold on that key chamber. (as the frailty of SCOTUS justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg reminded everyone he could install as many as four members on the court in one term) Likewise, the Blue Wave expected to drown Republicans also failed to crack governorships, with key 2020 election states Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa and Georgia remaining in GOP hands.
That was it. He’d taken the left's best shots and was still standing, leaving them just the cold comfort of a possible Hail Mary from Robert Mueller’s special-counsel report. Right before their star candidates are consumed by bids for the Democrat 2020 nomination to fight Trump.
But even as the DEM establishment sought to corral him with subpoenas and contempt citations, Trump was moving deftly in defining his legacy. Lost in the animus from the bien pensants and Acosta’s kabuki theatre, the populist appeared to be cutting ties with the disloyal and inept GOP apparatus.
First he mocked the party’s congressional losers from Tuesday who’d spurned his help. Running through their names he spiked each loss with a dig at them. If they were going to lose because of Trump they might just as well have made common cause with him, he suggested. Now, they were nothing to him.
Next, he extolled his supposed adversary Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who was re-taking the chairmanship of the House. He praised her hard work and dedication. He said he was prepared to deal with her on taxes, immigration, reproductive rights. If needs be he’d dump GOP talking points on taxation in favour of her own if that’s what worked to cut deals. Good bye Paul Ryan and the rest, the train is leaving the station.
In short, it would be about his agenda from now on. If that meant moving his tent closer to the people who’ve been trying to destroy him since he emerged in 2015 on his quixotic presidential run… well, that was the way it would be.
He emphasized the GOP schism within the hour of his presser ending when he dumped his first and most loyal supporter, attorney general Jeff Sessions. A decent, well-meaning man, Sessions had failed the Trump leadership test by recusing himself from the Mueller probe. Now he was cashiered. Loyalty = zero. Results are all that matter now.
The Dems and their bespoke friends at The New Yorker and the Never Trump enclave of The National Review will keep firing at his position long after he’s slipped away under cover. The Toronto debate crowd will still be reinforcing each other in hopes Trump will disappear in Mueller’s aftermath. But he’ll already be gone.
The Trump legacy is going to bear no flag but his own. And Steve Bannon will be laughing the last laugh at a political scene changed, changed utterly.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available