Against the Corrupt Bargain: a Theme for Trump

The 56th post on the Journal of American Greatness originally published in April, 2016.


Pat Buchanan’s most recent column compares the current shenanigans to strip Trump of his delegates to the Corrupt Bargain of 1824. Which is fine as far as it goes, but doesn’t go nearly far enough.

First, a brief refresher.  In the election of 1824, no candidate received a majority vote in the Electoral College.  Thus, per the Constitution, the election had to be decided in the House of Representatives.  Frontiersman Andrew Jackson—the first major contender not from Virginia or Massachusetts, and the first since John Adams not from the “Virginia squirearchy”—won the popular vote and was first in the Electoral College.  But Adams’ son John Quincy made a deal with Henry Clay to secure for himself the election in the House, which was still dominated by the Eastern old guard.  All quite “according to the rules.”  Sound familiar?  That deal Jackson denounced as a “corrupt bargain,” the name by which it has been known ever since.

We’re not so interested in the nuts and bolts of electoral politics here at JAG, but we think Buchanan missed an opportunity—thatTrump could seize to his advantage.

Trump may as well complain as loudly as he wants about delegate chicanery.  We don’t really see a downside as long he’s careful not to sound petulant.  Let the kidlets at NR insist—sounding like those dorks at every organization who’ve memorized Robert’s Rules of Order—that it’s all above board and by the book.  Trump can win that argument, at least on the field of public opinion.  For every 10pundits who get the vapors, hundreds of voters will side with Trump.  Whether that translates into delegates, we could not say.  That’s why Paul Manafort is being paid the big bucks.

But the deeper meaning of “corrupt bargain” has the potential to be much more useful.  In fact, it could serve as the overarching theme for both the rest of this primary campaign and—assuming Trump wins the nomination—for the general as well.  Steve Sailer touched on this a few months ago, but in his typical impressionistic way, declined to flesh it out.  So allow us.

We see two core foundations of Trump’s appeal.

First, he’s single-handedly revived talking about government serving its own citizens first, whether in immigration policy, trade, veterans, foreign policy, etc. That’s “who we are.”  No one else in the political class will say, or even believes, that’s who we are.  The political class, their donors and the intellectuals are loyal only to abstractions.  To them, America is not a country, with a people and a territory and borders and interests, but some kind of “idea.”  That’s not to say that there is nothing to the American idea—a social compact based on consent and a government to protect natural rights.  There is.  But the compact is for the people, for the Americanpeople, and not for foreigners, immigrants (unless we choose to welcome them) or anyone else.  Trump’s supporters understand this on a gut level and love him for it.  His line “You can’t have a country without borders” cannot be repeated often enough.

Second, Trump tells the truth when no one else will.  The temporary ban on Muslim immigration is based on the fact that Muslims are coming to the U.S. and killing Americans in the name of Islam.  No other candidate in either party will say this.  He’s the only Republican who will say forthrightly that the Iraq War was a failure and a mistake.  And he’s the only one who tells the truth about our trade policy: it has harmed a lot of people.

Gut-level appeal, though, is not enough.  It’s a foundation.  Think of a candidacy like a house.  The gut level appeal is the “foundation.” Obama’s was his biography and what he represented (the longed-for bridging of the partisan and racial divide).  Next comes the “walls.”  In political terms, this is the message.  Obama’s was simple: Hope and Change.  Then the “roof”: the issues.

Trump’s core message is perfect in its simplicity: Make America Great Again.  Eventually he will need to flesh it out with issues, but we’ve got that covered.

Trump also will need a negative message.  His candidacy can’t be all hope nor all anger, but should be a shrewd mix of both.  He should offer hope but also recognize that anyone who is not angry at the current, corrupt system is either asleep or benefits from it.

The negative message is: Against the Corrupt Bargain.  The Corrupt Bargain is the Top+Bottom versus Middle economy.  The billionaire class says: We will fund your campaigns if you favor polices that enrich us, like the carried interest loophole (no taxes on hedge fund kings), parking corporate income overseas to avoid taxes, and of course open borders to drive down wages.  The Democrats support the Davos economy, against the apparent interests of their downscale voters, because they get to import ringers to build permanent electoral majorities, as they have already done in the blue states and are close to accomplishing nationally.

Why the Republicans go along is somewhat more puzzling.  Some Republicans are just stupid.  Trump should attack them for being dumb.  Losers!  They’re so dumb they don’t understand that they’re undercutting their own base’s wages.  That’s because their realbase is their donors, not the voters.  They’re so dumb they keep wanting to import more people who vote 2-1 against them.  We are governed by idiots!
But others Republican pols go along because they are paid to.  Trump’s line about Rubio being “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator” was great, if no longer relevant with Rubio gone.  But Zuck slammed Trump recently in a business speech.  Trump should seize the opportunity to renew the attack.  This is a gift.  Trump couldn’t ask for a more perfect foil than this smug, out-of-touch epitome of theSlave Power.

But Trump should say it about ALL of them: the entire open-border, trade sell-out, endless-war billionaire class. They are his election opponents as much as Cruz or Hillary.  Blast away.  They’re all in this together—that’s the point to hammer home.  There is a whole billionaire Republican donor class which only cares about their own narrow economic interests: open borders and no taxes on billionaires.  These are the ones funding the anti-Trump delegate chicanery.  The two senses of “corrupt bargain” are thus fundamentally linked.  At the macro-level, it’s the Slave Power funding politicians of both parties to ensure that their economic interests remain top priorities for national policy.  At the granular level, right now, it’s the backroom dealing to derail any challenge to the rule of this de jure two-party system but de facto one-party junta.

Trump should link these guys to enemy alien George Soros and the other Democratic billionaires and say there is no difference: the system is rigged and at the highest level the parties are the same.  Point out that that the vast majority of Wall Street campaign money goes to Dems.  And ALL that money goes to pols—Rep or Dem—who favor open borders, free trade, and tax breaks for finance billionaires.  Trump should campaign to take the Republican party back for the people it’s supposed to serve.

Trump should pledge to end the “corrupt bargain” and restore a real two-party system.  He should never tire of professing his love of the Republican base, the rank and file, while attacking the corrupt leadership and promising to oust them.

Of course he will be attacked as a billionaire, and hence a hypocrite.  He already has been.  He should own the insult.  Insist he’s a patriot first and anyone would have to be blind or in on the scam not to see what’s going on.  Just like FDR, Trump should say with pride that he’s a “traitor to his class,” so long as his class is corrupt and screwing over the little guy.

Also, and related, Trump’s wealth is derived from the land, from the country, not from the bips and blips of international finance.  He should say that he’s worked with banks his whole career and they are necessary instruments of economic progress.  He couldn’t have done what he did without banks.  Business couldn’t survive without banks.  But somewhere along the line, finance stopped being a service to the real economy—making and building things, like Trump does—and became the end, the purpose.  We set policy by whether it’s good for finance.  The servant has become the master.  Trump should insist he’s not a knee-jerk enemy of banking, but pledge to put the banks in their proper place.

On Hillary: She is attackable from multiple angles.  First and foremost, she is an agent of the corrupt bargain.  NAFTA.  Repeal of Glass-Stegal.  Bob Rubin ($120 million for blowing up the world).  No border enforcement whatsoever.  The list is endless.  All the things Trump is running to restore, she helped tear down.

Plus, on defense policy, she voted for the Iraq War—disaster.  She was a prime mover in the Libya war—disaster.  She presided over the Arab Spring and the rise of ISIS—disasters.  She’s a naivecon.  Hawkish to the point of recklessness and no ability to see what’s really in America’s interests.

In short, she is the worst kind of hypocrite: a plutocrat whose whole political existence is to support the Corrupt Bargain but who poses as a champion of the people.

Trump may or may not be in the process of melting down.  Things aren’t looking so great right now, we’d have to admit.  Perhaps this message could revive his flagging campaign: Against the Corrupt Bargain.  Against the One Party State.  Against the Billionaire-Dem-Rep alliance.

Will this work?  If we knew, we’d be campaign consultants making $14 million per primary cycle.  Wait—you actually don’t need to know how to win to get rich as a political consultant?  Maybe there’s a future for us after all!

Even if it doesn’t work for Trump, it’s bound to work for a more serious, statesmanlike and disciplined candidate who offers a compelling message, real policy heft and stays on message.  And who also does what Trump has repeatedly said he would do but apparently hasn’t yet: hire “terrific people.”  Manafort has an impressive background, but if his greatest triumph was the 1976 convention, we have to wonder how relevant that is, literally 40 years later.  And he’s just one man.

We tend to believe that the fact that someone as undisciplined and unprepared as Trump has been able to get this far, with something sorta-kinda like this message shows that there’s something to it.  And if not, we can only repeat, What difference, at this point, does it make?

—Decius

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