From Social Matter: Reactionary Political Theory On Contemporary America
Our question is the following: what is the significance of Trump’s victory? What does it mean for the Modern Structure?
To answer the first question: a change in national sentiment. To answer the second, not much.
Trump’s rise definitely ties into a ‘shared narrative’ of a national frustration with the direction of the country, a distrust of elites, and opposition to the ‘status quo’ both in terms of economics and immigration.
But is Trump a legitimate threat? Maybe not so much.
Part 1. Economics & Finance The stock market keeps making new highs…if Trump is supposed to be a threat to the establishment, the market is not buying it. I think the market is correct and that most of this is just saber rattling , although we’ll see. The stock market is a good real-time barometer of the well-being and confidence of financial elites. If elites lose confidence, they will sell stocks and move to treasury bonds, corporate bonds, gold, or cash. ‘Challenging’ the elite is the first part; ‘doing’ is much harder. Elites are used to being challenged, and are also used to getting their way.
Tariffs are not that a big deal and more symbolic than anything, although could be problematic if overdone. Trump’s pledges to keep jobs in America seem seems to involve overly generous subsidies and or corporate welfare that may have unintended/perverse consequences. For example, the Cobra Effect.
Related, a major criticism of the Trump Carrier deal is creates a perverse incentive for companies threaten to outsource more jobs than originally planned, to get subsidies for jobs that they originally had no intent to move.
Trump is a businessman, and businessmen generally don’t like to lose money. Trump (to borrow from Taleb) has a lot of ‘skin in the game’ in that his own personal fortune is closely tied to the overall health of the US economy.
Motivated by self-preservation, I predict Trump will avoid sweeping economic policy that may cause harm both to his own personal wealth and the overall US economy, instead, as Scott noted, focusing on ‘symbolic gestures’ that get a lot of media coverage but on the grand scheme of things don’t move the needle much.
So overall, the finance-elite probably will come out ahead in a Trump administration, barring some sort of major recession or bear market (which may or may not be attributable to Trump).
Part 2. Immigration Regarding immigration, now this is where the ‘elites’ are sightly more scared, although I don’t think they have too much to worry about. Trump’s executive order was a setback, but the 9th Circuit struck it down, so it’s off to the Supreme Court, but the odds don’t look too good:
But given that the Supreme Court currently lacks its ninth member, there a real chance of a 4-4 split on the bench along ideological lines, which would have the effect of affirming the ruling of the 9th Circuit, inflicting a more permanent blow to the new administration.
Even if it passes, there will be too many holes, exemptions, and waivers. And as everyone has already noted, the ‘ban’ does not include the countries that are most responsible for state-sponsored Islamic terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, UAE, and Egypt. Sunni Islam is the bigger threat, but Trump’s ban mostly targets Shia countries. Also, many instances of Islamic terrorism in America have been perpetrated by second generation immigrants from middle or upper-class backgrounds. From CounterJihad.com A Case Study in Conversion to Terror (UPDATED):
That a first generation of Muslim immigrants is often succeeded by a radical second generation has been documented by Foreign Policy, PBS, and by statisticians in Denmark. The first generation came to America or to Europe for reasons they felt strongly enough to make the move. They understood they were electing to move to a society that was less Islamic, and accepted the trade off. Their children, born in the West, did not experience the realities that made their parents leave the old world. They reject the laws and customs of their new society as being opposed to their Islamic identity. The Danish statistics found that second-generation Muslim immigrants are 218% more inclined to crime than their parents’ generation.
Furthermore, obviously, it doesn’t deal with Mexican immigration, which is what voters specifically had in mind when Trump was campaigning on immigration control. It’s still very early in Trump’s first term, so he has plenty of time to get to that. But given how Trump’s travel ban has been neutered (and was porous to begin with), deportations and restrictions against Mexican immigration similarly faces a major uphill battle. That’s the problem with democracy and progressivism: you can’t undo it. It’s like an escalator: either you get off or keep going up, but you cannot turn back.
So the amnesty-elites are worried, but too soon to call it a defeat for them.
Part 3. Culture wars Given the GOP’s long history of losing ground on culture issues, the prognosis is not good. Trump campaigned as an ‘immigration warrior’, not a ‘culture warrior’, and his past views on these issues is cloudy, such as being pro-choice at one point. He is also indifferent about same-sex marriage, and may or may not try to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many of the people close to Trump and part of his ‘economic circle’ aren’t big on culture issues.
Part 4. Endgame Overall, to reiterate, my expectations for Trump, especially regarding economic policy, are muted. That’s that’s at least for the next 4-8 years. Although I said earlier that progressivism is irreversible, technically things can change, although it will be a marathon, not a sprint.
There are two possibilities of ‘reset’: ‘quick and sudden’ (such as economic collapse, natural disaster, nuclear war, or other crisis) or ‘slow and steady’ (gradual change in sentiment and leadership). The former may not always be the best, if the elites do the rebuilding, which was the case in the 30′s following the Great Depression in which FDR, a major leftist, rose to power and whose reforms far outlasted his four terms. The 2008 financial crisis and 911 also saw the elites rebound to a stronger position than before.
The ‘slow and steady’ approach may be more viable. A notable example was the transformation of the Rome Empire from paganism to Christianity, which unfolded over a 100-year period, from around 300 to 400 AD. Until Constantine’s conversion and legalization of Christianity in 312, Christianity was mostly relegated to the fringes, practiced by only 10% of the Roman population, who feared persecution, in contrast to paganism which dominated. By around 400, paganism was outlawed. Such an ideological transformation can occur in America, and will also take a similarly long time. What is required is that ‘alt right’ politicians (who are more extreme than Trump and don’t care about financial self-preservation) accede and maintain control of the major branches of government long enough to have the Supreme Court replaced and restocked, eventually allowing constitutional amendments to be reversed, and possibly new ones to be added that increases the power executive branch–or-possibly does away with the existing system of government all together. Over 60-100 year timetable, this is possible, although still unlikely. The odds will go up if there are exogenous factors to speed this process
Related to this theme of collapse, check out And then what happens?