The Wisdom of Trump's Alignments

by WILLIAM R. HAWKINS January 30, 2017

President Donald Trump seems to have enemies everywhere. Protests in the streets, no matter how vulgar, are covered 24/7 by a vast liberal establishment of "journalists of record" who hate the "populist-nationalist" sentiments that brought such an "outsider" to power. The values presented by the Trump electorate are the antithesis of the decadence, drugs and decay of Hollywood. Yet, the "stars" can't get it through their heads that while fans may adore the heroes portrayed on screen, the public does not accept actors as role models when they veer to the dark side. Still, in a society as bombarded by "entertainment" as this one, the voices of the media seem to drown out everything else.

Trump, however, did not get to the White House by being heedless as a strategist. In terms of how the general public feels about the major institutions of American society, he has picked his allies and adversaries wisely.

Gallup surveys confidence in major institutions on an annual basis. The last poll was taken in early June, 2016. The highest rating went to the Military, with 73% of those asked saying they had either a great deal (41%) or quite a lot (32%) of confidence in those who risk their lives defending the country. Trump has made a strong point of praising the troops, pledging to rebuild their strength and taking care of their veterans (whose neglect became a scandal in the previous administration). He named three highly-respected retired generals to his cabinet. This is the kind of patriotic embrace that the Left cannot match, seeing the armed forces as the tools of an alleged "imperialism" they revile and an America they claim has never been great (nor deserves to be).

Trump also ran on a "law and order" platform that extolled the police as the "thin blue line" that stands between civilization and barbarism on the home front. He gained the endorsement of the National Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 330,000 officers---- an endorsement Mitt Romney did not get in 2012.  In the Gallup poll, the Police came in third with support from 56% of those asked, and this after a vicious campaign by the Left against "police brutality" and "unjustified" shootings (which almost always turn out to be justified upon investigation). Public support for the cop on the beat has not wavered much in twenty years. In contrast, support for the criminal justice system came in eleventh out of 15 groups with only 23% having confidence in what the courts do with the criminals the police bring in. This would imply that reform is needed, but the only reform being pushed by "progressives" is to make the courts more lenient towards law breakers; reducing sentences and giving voting rights back to felons. A good sign as to who the Left thinks are its natural constituents.

Coming in second between the military and police according to Gallup is Small Business. This is the group that has been most damaged by "free trade" as supply chains have been outsourced to those who employ cheap labor, particularly in China and Mexico. Meanwhile, Big Business, the transnational firms who have placed those orders from foreign suppliers, rated 14th with only 18% expressing any confidence in their performance. Of course, it is Big Business that has the campaign funds and lobbyists to resist Trump's efforts to bring jobs back to America and to reinstate the historic policy of protectionism for domestic manufacturing first established by President George Washington and maintained by Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as the U.S. became the world's leading industrial power.

Economist Peter Navarro has been appointed by Trump to head a new National Trade Council to put right decades of mistaken policies that have closed thousands of factories and cost millions of jobs. In his 2015 book Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World; Navarro warns that the largest problem to be faced is domestic: "To peacefully counter the serious security challenges now being posed by a rapidly rising China, there must be a political consensus on what the appropriate economic, military, and other actions are to take. However, achieving any such political consensus will obviously be difficult in free and open democracies where economic interests are divided by their stakes in the China trade." Trump has aligned himself with those interests the public supports against those who have been seduced by the illusion of vast profits to be gained by helping the Beijing communists build a world power.

The banks have also played a role in a "globalization" scheme designed to replace national interests and allegiances. Capital, along with goods and people, are no longer supposed to respect borders or the societies they encompass. Protesters may burn flags in the streets, but these moguls have burned the flag in their minds. But since the 2008 financial crisis, the banks have dropped on Gallup's list from a high of 52% support in 2004 to only 27% support in 2016.  So again, while a major political battle can be expected, Trump's adversaries enter the fray from a weak position.

And the branch of government which is most influenced by corporate lobbyists, Congress, ranks at the very bottom of the Gallup list, with only 6% support. And that was with Republican leadership. In a previous poll, Gallup found that 75% of Americans felt corruption is widespread in a government ruled by an Establishment out of touch with the reality faced by everyday Americans. It is this Establishment that Trump beat.

The institution that ranks fourth in public confidence is the Church or Organized Religion. Trump made a strong appeal to the faithful during his campaign and his inauguration was filled with prayers and religious symbolism. According to the Pew Research Center, Trump carried the Protestant vote by the usual Republican margin and also the Catholic vote which had eluded McCain and Romney. This was because, while he lost the Hispanic Catholics, he did so by a smaller margin than McCain and Romney while increasing his support among white Catholics.

This brings us back to the groups first mentioned: the media. Television news had only 21% support and newspapers only 20% in the Gallup poll on public confidence. No wonder President Trump feels he can counter such venerable institutions as CNN and the Washington Post with a few tweets from his smart phone. The fix is already in.

Critics point out that Trump entered office without having won a majority of the popular votes. Yet, he is not alone in American history in owing the legitimacy of his victory only to the Electoral College created by the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln, for example, received only 40% of the vote in 1860. He is now considered one of our greatest presidents, second only to Washington, because of what he accomplished in office. That will be Trump's test as well. But if he plays his cards right, he already has the winning hand.

William R. Hawkins is a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues. He is a former economics professor and Republican Congressional staff member.

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