Trump’s Political History is a Broken Record

A look back on some of Trump’s political positions from 1980s to today: where he’s been may be telling of where he’s going.

He said the nation’s economic policy could be vastly improved by following one simple rule: “Whatever Japan wants, do the opposite.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer: 23 October 1987: “‘Draft Trump’ Committee In N.h. Gets Visit From The Non-candidate”

“Tax” these wealthy nations, not America. End our huge deficits, reduce our taxes, and let America’s economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defense of their freedom. Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.

— Donald Trump, from DocFoc: facsimile of The Washington Post, 2 September 1987, p. A9, advertisement “An open letter from Donald J. Trump”

“Country-wide, we have serious problems,” he said. “So many countries are whipping America . . . making billions and stripping the United States of economic dignity. I respect the Japanese, but we have to fight back.”

— Donald Trump, from The Morning Call: 6 June 1988: “Donald Trump Warns Lehigh Graduates About Aids And Foreign Competitors”

28 years later, and it seems like Trump still has the same problems. All that has changed is which country is doing the bulk of the whipping.

Plus, I think there’s a great lack of spirit in this country. You know, what happened over the last four years is disgusting, and I just think there’s a tremendous lack of spirit, and I think the spirit has to be brought back.

— Donald Trump, from CNN: 8 October 1999: Larry King Live

Oprah, I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice.

— Donald Trump, when asked who he had in mind for a vice presidential candidate, from the Larry King source above

I think that too many people are flowing into the country. We have to take care of our own first. We must take care of our own.

— Donald Trump, from 24 October 1999: Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Interview with Donald Trump

Trump’s basic platform isn’t new. While he may have changed on some issues, the core of his message is basically the same: America is tarnished. America needs to be restored. In the Larry King piece he also talks about how Reagan was great not for any policy reasons, but for the basic image he projected about America. Of course, Trump may not believe Reagan was great at all: it was during the waning years of Reagan’s presidency that Trump took out the advertisement and had already criticized the trade policies.

But we can tell from the comment on Reagan that when Trump raises the slogan MAGA, Make America Great Again, he isn’t talking about doing anything at all. He’s talking about simply pretending. He’s talking about the bottle of anti-ghost spray (tap water) you tell your daughter will keep her bedroom ghost-free. He’s talking about superstition and confidence.

In the 1988 cycle, Trump had a minor consideration for running, as well as supposedly being considered as a vice presidential possibility by George H.W. Bush. In the 2000 cycle, he went so far as to starting a run for the Reform Party nomination, even putting up a campaign website (long-defunct and apparently unarchived: donaldjtrump2000-dot-com). If you go to the tape, via C-SPAN ( 28 November 1999: Washington Journal: Interview/Call-in with Roger Stone), the first caller even asks about Trump’s tendency for name-calling (and whether he would support the Reform Party nominee whether if he lost). Trump called it quits before the first primaries.

Point is, looking back, Trump is Trump, and his major policies are unchanged. Trade protectionism, protect entitlements, block immigration, insult people, and a restoration for the quixotic ideal of America (probably including renaming the country Trumpland and putting giant gold letters on the walls and coasts). On the other hand, on some of those issues, America is America. Our general drift on trade, entitlements, and immigration haven’t really changed. At least not to the point where Trump would need new rhetoric.

Trump’s policies are the equivalent of a smoker’s cough, because the politicians from the 80s to now have failed to kick the habits that allow him to fester. He’s a broken record largely because America is a broken record on so many of these issues. We have been in a long-term equilibrium where things need changing, but the deterioration is slow enough to be patched or ignored. But sooner or later the equilibrium breaks down, and the question is whether Trump has his timing right.

People say of Trump that nobody expected him to get this far. But the general election is far different from getting the nomination. A presidential bid is a lot like the baseball-football crossover athletes (or basketball-baseball in the case of Michael Jordan). You have to compete in two vary different arenas, successfully, to win the office. Trump has shown himself capable in one contest, but for the other only time will tell.

It certainly doesn’t look likely, given the demographics, the tone of things. Trump’s current chances for victory in November are minimal. But the type of person, the form of Trump? The old saying, “Use it or lose it,” applies to political trust and power, too. If the politicians, escaping a Trump presidency in November, fail to begin to exercise a bit more power and regain some trust, Trump or some other figure will eventually take power with predictably bad consequences.

A word of caution, though. If I was correct back when I wrote “May the Funnest Man Win?” ( 29 September 2012: “May the Funnest Man Win?”), it may be that the Trump supporters in America are like those kids in the Aerosmith video for “Livin’ on the Edge” (YouTube: Aerosmith: “Livin’ on the Edge”) who steal the car to crash it into a truck.

It’s possible that the funnest-man-rule doesn’t apply to Hillary, being a woman. She may break the jinx, or maybe people will see her as a fun enough choice in her own right, or maybe there’s a corollary that says there’s also such a thing as Too Much Fun (like the tummy pains from over-spoiling your dinner on a sweets binge). But if not, if Trump pushes the fun buttons, even in a “what does airbag deployment feel like?” sort of way, we may be in for trouble.

There is, however, at least one other explanation than fun. While Trump may want to be the sugar pill for greatness, the Republican electorate may be seeking him out as an emetic. They have found themselves poisoned by too much tea-partying and lethargy, and they are seeking to expel the poison in the best way possible: by puking their guts out with Trump. In this case, Trump will not get far in November, and his nosedive will induce airsickness in the GOP, causing them to really liberate their lunches, freedom-fighter style.

Anyway, enough words for today. Lots of time to waste on better things before we will see if Trump has legs.


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