The Real Skinny

During the 1950s I first heard the term “the real skinny.”  This appellation was used to describe what were believed to be the “true facts” about any subject under discussion.  

During the past month or more I have read everything I could about our current political situation.  I have read liberal/progressive commentators, and I have checked the writings of conservatives.  I listened to the news and suffered through the impeachment trial.  Finally, I arrived at what I believe to be “the real skinny” about President Trump and his political opponents. 

How did this man become our President?  Why did the House impeach him? What are his prospects for reelection in 2020?

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States on June 16, 2015, I did not think he had any chance of being elected.  There were many qualified Republicans already in the field, and the eventual party nominee would doubtless have to face the redoubtable Hillary Clinton in the general election. Trump was a businessman and a showman, and he had no real experience in government or politics.  He was also a draft-dodger and a thrice married New York billionaire.  How could such a man appeal to the average Republican voter? His campaign for nomination and the Presidency proved how wrong I was.  His success surprised me, just as it surprised almost every political pundit.

More than anyone, Trump reminds me of P.T. Barnum, the great showman. Like Barnum, Trump believes in the power of “humbug.”  As defined by Barnum, humbug “consists in putting on glittering appearances—outside show—novel expedients, by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear. . .” There   are, the showman added, “various trades and occupations which need only notoriety to achieve success.”  I do not know that Trump consciously copied Barnum’s tactics, but he did.

The American political establishment never knew what hit it.  Trump violated every political canon.  He was obnoxious, he was unpleasant, and he made many false or misleading statements; but his very outlandishness attracted intense media coverage.  As a result, he received massive press and television coverage at virtually no cost to himself.  Mainstream media generally despised him, but their constant coverage helped elect him.

Still, Trump had to get support from a sizeable percentage of the Republican voters in order to get through the primaries and win the general election.  There were a number of ways that Trump garnered this support.

First, Trump appealed to those Americans who felt that they had been neglected by their political leaders and were losing their small slice of the American pie.  Many citizens in the so-called rust belt and in southern textile towns had seen their livelihoods disappear as factories were closed and their jobs moved to other countries.  In many small towns the harmful impacts of factory closings were felt at every level of society, and economic despair was palpable. Government spokesmen and most economists insisted that this was a good thing.  Free trade contributed to a lower cost of goods, and, in the long run everything would balance out, and all nations would benefit.  They were told that this was the new norm and that the factories were never coming back.  Globalism was the catchword.  Try to sell that idea to an unemployed factory worker!        

In 2016, a goodly percentage of Donald Trump’s vote came from those who had been adversely impacted, directly or indirectly, by the globalist economy.  Many were working two jobs to earn even a portion of the income they had once earned at a good-paying union factory.  They felt that something was wrong, and Donald Trump promised to do something about it.  Many informed observers, including most Democratic Party leaders, seemed convinced that the situation was irreversible, but candidate Trump tried to persuade them that he could bring manufacturing back and “make America great again.”  He blamed many of our problems on the imbalance in trade relationships with foreign countries. 

As part of his war on so-called “free trade”, Trump insisted that the Chinese had been taking advantage of us for decades in the trade arena, and he would restore balance to that relationship.  Many if not moist Americans agreed with Trump’s analysis.  All one needed to confirm the existing imbalance was a brief examination of goods lining the shelves of a local Walmart, more than 80% of which probably bear a made in China label.

Trump also railed against existing trade treaties with other nations.  He promised to substitute “fair trade” for “free trade,” and bring an end to our competitive disadvantage.

Trump also promised to pursue energy independence by increasing the production of oil, natural gas and coal.  This meant he would withdraw from the Paris Accords and change the Clean Power Plan. This horrified climate alarmists; but it pleased Americans, even those convinced that climate change was real, who believed that any carbon-reducing, economy-damaging moves on our part would be foolish and ineffective unless part of a binding, enforceable international treaty that applied equally to all nations. Trump insisted that he would not allow the United States industry to be crippled by extreme environmental regulations while China and India, our economic competitors, were free to pollute at will.

Trump also promised to restore our depleted military establishment, weakened by years of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.  He proposed to do this by a large cash infusion and reducing our overseas footprint.  He would fight and defeat Islamic terrorists, but he wished to leave most combat operations to the allies that were principally affected.  Also, there would be no more nation building. 

Another Trump promise involved curbing the flow of illegal immigration from the south.  He would build a border wall, and “Mexico would pay for it.”

Even though they may have doubted his ability to deliver, Trump’s campaign promises appealed to many Americans.  They were accustomed to being lied to by political candidates, but they liked what he was saying.  Nevertheless, his campaign platform was not the only key to Trump’s electoral victory. Perhaps the major reason he won was the incompetence and arrogance of the opposition.  Hilary Clinton and her accomplices in the mainstream media treated his supporters as ignorant rubes, the “great unwashed”, the “basket of deplorables.”  In a symbolic sense, the liberal elite joined Hilary Clinton, the new Marie Antoinette, in saying, “Let them eat cake.”  On November 8, 2016, the disaffected masses stormed the American Bastille.

And what was the result of Trump’s election?      

We have had three years of constant political turmoil as the Democratic opposition and never-Trumper Republicans sought to unseat this man.  Trump continued his Barnum-like career as a flamboyant huckster, and his public comments are rarely distinguished by the dignity expected from our nation’s chief executive.  This enraged his opponents, but they have been unable to convict him of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors and throw him out of office.  Indeed, in their fervent attempt to destroy him, Trump’s enemies themselves have often been guilty of egregious offenses.  I believe that some of Trump’s opponents honestly believe him to be a threat to nation and perhaps even under the influence of a foreign power.  In their minds, that apparently justified their abuse of prosecutorial powers to overthrow him.  They hit Trump everything they could and did not hesitate in bending the rules in attacking him.  Now, in the aftermath of a failed impeachment, President Trump appears to be stronger than ever.  Those who hate him are becoming acutely and painfully aware of their party’s diminished prospects in the 2020 general election.  

And what of Trump’s accomplishments during his three years in office? First and foremost, it appeared that Trump tried to live up to his campaign promises.

  • By executive action, Trump eliminated many burdensome and often useless regulations that hampered business activities for years and had become even more onerous under Obama. Trump’s move was particularly helpful to small businesses, and we have seen a healthy growth in that area for the past three years.
  • Trump’s deregulatory moves also benefitted the fossil fuel producers. Deregulation, along with technological breakthroughs, revived the oil and gas industries and made the United States truly fuel independent for the first time in decades.  Also, coal miners returned to work in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
  • Trump sponsored legislation to reduce the tax rates for most income earners, freeing up great amounts of money for consumer spending and capital investment. The economy responded with a steady rate of expansion and a burgeoning stock market. Stocks reached new highs, benefitting the tens of millions of citizens who are invested in retirement accounts. Also, because of the change in tax rates, the lowest 20 percent of income earners enjoyed greater proportionate income increases than the wealthiest.
  • Under Trump, unemployment rates, especially among blacks and Latinos, reached historic lows. The percentage of the working-age population employed is going up, and unemployment compensation payments and food stamp distributions are going down.  Blue collar incomes are actually increasing for the first time in years.
  • Trump is appointing conservative jurists to the Federal courts, judges who believe in enforcing the law as written instead of interpreting it in the light of current sensibilities.
  • Trump has seen to an increase in the defense budget as needed to restore military capabilities seriously depleted by a constant series of overseas engagements..
  • Trump and his military commanders eliminated the ISIS caliphate and hopefully reduced the treat of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.
  • Trump succeeded in persuading members of NATO to pay more of their fair share for mutual defense.
  • Trump declared himself to be a firm friend of the religious community and of the nation of Israel. His actions appear to in keeping with his words.  He is the first President to attend the annual Pro-Life rally in Washington, and he finally moved the American embassy to Jerusalem.     
  • Trump negotiated much more favorable trade deals with a number of foreign countries, mostly on a bi-lateral basis. The important trade treaty with Canada and Mexico was recently signed.
  • Trump confronted China about its unfair trade practices and backed it up with threats of tariffs (including a few actual implementations). Despite howls of woe from free-traders, Trump’s gambit seems to be working.  The United States and China have signed what is termed the first phase of a new, fairer trade deal.
  • Trump is implementing a program for so-called “enterprise zones” in large cities designed to fight urban blight and benefit poor inner-city backs.
  • With the assistance of those black leaders willing to work with him, Trump succeeded in pushing through criminal justice reform measures that will ensure more equitable treatment of persons convicted of non-violent (mostly drug-related) offenses.
  • Despite continuing opposition from Democrats in Congress and without Mexican money, Trump managed to begin construction on his promised border wall, and he coerced cooperation from Mexico and certain Central American countries in addressing the refugee problem. The flow of illegals from the south has been markedly reduced.    

President Trump achieved this amazing record in the face of unrelenting resistance from the Democratic Party opposition, never-Trumper Republicans, liberal courts, and the biased left-wing media.  His critics deny his economic and other achievements even in the face of statistical proofs of his successes. The radical denizens of the entertainment industry assail the President with a constant steam of bile, and some of his most determined enemies, burrowed deep within the bowels of the Federal bureaucracy, sabotage his efforts at every opportunity.  Somehow, he keeps sloughing off the criticism, bypassing the roadblocks, and forging ahead.  I admire his endurance and his fortitude. 

Of course, not all is sunshine and roses. Trump’s method of governance is extremely divisive, and he shows no charity toward his enemies.  In the aftermath of impeachment, he is vindictive; and he is a street fighter trained in the hard world of cutthroat business practices. The mainstream press responds in kind with bitter and often untruthful charges against the President and his supporters.  Many pundits on the left appear to truly despise the man, and they fight him, fairly or foully, with every weapon at their disposal. Conservative thinkers like Bill Kristol and George Will, former intellectual icons of the political right, dislike and distrust Trump so much that they have abandoned the Republican Party and joined the opposition. The President responds with vicious attacks on his enemies. The nation badly needs political balm and relief from partisan strife, but we are unlikely to get it from Trump or his opponents.  Both sides are continually stoking the fires of conflict.

Though Trump can truthfully claim credit for a healthy economy, he has done nothing to confront our growing national debt.  Indeed, Trump’s tax reforms may have increased the annual deficit, and interest on the debt takes a greater percentage of our revenues every year.  Trump and the Congress have also failed to address other pressing concerns such as the impending financial collapse of Social Security and Medicare and the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.  Comprehensive immigration reform remains a burning issue.   Finally, health care remains a serious concern for many Americans; and Trump acts as if a worldwide climate change problem does not exist.  Someday, we Americans must address these problems or pay the piper. 

Perhaps, if he is reelected this year, Trump will begin to confront some of these pressing matters.  I believe he wishes to do so, and with a cooperative Congress a lot could be accomplished.  Much depends on whether the Republicans hold the Senate and retake the House of Representatives.  A Schumer-led Senate or Pelosi-led House is unlikely to work with the President, and many issues would remain unresolved.

As for the coming Presidential campaign, the field of Democratic Party candidates appears very weak.  There is not a standout among them, and, with possible exception of Michael Bloomberg, I fear for the nation’s future should any of them win the Presidency. Sanders and Warren would put us on the path toward socialism, and the other Democratic candidates espouse extreme liberal platforms that I believe to be abhorrent in the eyes of most conservatives and centrists.  I am reasonably confident that Trump will be reelected to a second term.

I now admit to a recent change of heart.  In the past, I always apologized for voting for Trump in 2016.  I will apologize no more.  I believe that Trump is much more intelligent than I gave him credit for being, and I am persuaded that he sincerely desires what is best for this nation.  Yes, he is a showman like P. T. Barnum, but he also has good instincts, common sense, and is no war monger.  Furthermore, he is neither a global elitist nor an anti-Christian intellectual. Despite his many personal faults and foibles, I consider Trump to be a very effective chief executive.  If he would learn to develop a real spirit of magnanimity, if he had a road to Damascus experience, he could even become a great President.

I will vote for him again in November 2020.    

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