Trump Failed

Trump was a surprise long-shot candidate who emerged seemingly out of nowhere. Although he was hated by the establishment, he was actually their best hope. If he was able to rein in U.S. military interventionism (better relations with Russia, a peace process in North Korea), stabilize the immigration system and make some headway on trade deals, and if subsequent Presidents built on this instead of reversing the gains, it might have given the U.S. a much brighter future. For those who hate the uncertainty and volatility that grows out of populism, he would also have completed America's populist moment.

Instead, his administration was subverted at almost every turn by his family (Jarvanka), his cooperation with the GOP establishment or his appointments (Bolton).

The second and third year of a Presidency is often its nadir. The fake Russia collusion story clearly had an impact on Trump. Perhaps he will reverse course on everything and go back to his campaign promises, but probably not.

Before going through his failures, first recognize that America is an imperial power in decline. Its military is stretched across the globe. Like the Athenians, its allies are mostly paper tigers who can't provide military support even if they tried. Its reliable military allies are mainly Anglo-Saxon nations. Its borders overflow with foreigners who almost uniformly do not share its culture, religion or history, a majority are actively hostile to them. Its major institutions have converged to foreign and anti-American ideologies. The financial and economic system are stretched to the limits with debt financing. Future historians will point to much earlier times when they try to locate when the red line was crossed and collapse became inevitable.

On to Trump. Instead of focusing on his campaign promises, Trump almost immediately deferred to Congress. They decided to do a massive tax break in the mold of the unpopular GOP establishment, plus healthcare reform that mostly leaves the ironically named "Affordable" Care Act in place. The tax cuts did not produce growth superior to that of the Obama administration. A small bump in inflation means nominal growth has been more consistent under Trump, but it it in line with what was seen under Obama. The "Obama economy" sucked and the "Trump economy" isn't materially different.
Trump went from correctly identifying the stock market as a giant bubble that will pop when interest rates increase to using the Dow Jones Industrial Average as a benchmark for his administration and pushing the Fed to stop raising rates.

On immigration, Trump has completely failed. Migrant flows are soaring, the courts are subverting national security, child smuggling is soaring because "families" are cut loose after apprehension now. There is effectively no border control when it comes to restricting the flow of migrants. Americans are losing access to social services as migrants soak up attention and dollars. As migrant surge continues, El Paso's safety net is feeling the strain
While Trump still sticks to his campaign rhetoric, his own son-in-law is undermining him with the Chamber of Commerce and agribusiness interests. Kushner is planning a 180 degree policy reversal from the RAISE Act supported by President Trump. As Trump rages over border, Kushner quietly plans legal immigration boost. The last remaining "populist" in the Trump Administration will signal whether Trump has completely folded or not: STEPHEN MILLER’S POWER OVER TRUMP IS ABOUT TO BE TESTED. Trump's recent threats to close the Southern Border could be his Rubicon. Closing it would be in tune with his campaign promises and satisfy his voters who do not care about stock prices, but it could well sink the market in the short-term.

On trade, President Trump said he would renegotiate trade deals in America's favor. Most of the deals, such as reworking NAFTA, aren't having a major impact. The big trade deal is with the nation that could have the largest economy in the world in a few decades: China. Trust in the media has collapsed to a point where one must seriously question even formerly reliable outfits such as Bloomberg, Financial Times and Reuters, but they are reporting that Trump is all but folding: U.S. sets 2025 target for China to fulfill trade pledges: Bloomberg

President Trump had a golden opportunity to pressure China because it is on the verge of a major credit crisis. By 2025, the economic cycles will have turned. If China has a crisis between now and then, they will be in a strong position to renege on the deal. The U.S. will be in a weaker position economically because the U.S. dollar should be well into a bear market. U.S. deficits will be running at nearly $1 trillion per year by then and the trade deficit will be close to or more than $1 trillion if there isn't major restructurings of global trade or the U.S. domestic economy. The U.S. must shift from taxes on production to consumption, whether via a direct tax, tariffs or some type of constructive "green" taxes.

Foreign policy was one area where President Trump made some progress. Although the clinically insane Russiagaters pushed America towards a nuclear-armed collision with Russia, President Trump put pressure on NATO allies and had a seriously peace process underway with North Korea. He then appointed John Bolton. Now the Russian and Chinese militaries are in Venezuela, presenting the greatest challenge to the Monroe Doctrine since the Cuban missile crisis. Bolton also blew up the Korean peace process.


Trump skeptics will rejoinder: what did you expect? And there's some truth in their skepticism. But it is also true that many of Trump's failing are standard operative procedure for his enemies. Trump's failed foreign policies are favored policies of Never Trumpers and establishment Democrats. Democratic Hawks Helped Scuttle the Hanoi Summit on Korea. Trump's failures on immigration are because his "policy in fact" (not in rhetoric) is effectively the Democrat position on mass migration. His economic agenda is largely that of the GOP establishment.

Pessimists will argue Trump never had a chance. The establishment is entrenched and imperial decline cannot be reversed. There is some truth to that argument as well, but the U.S. can pull back its military forces at any time. It can go back to square one with a focus on enforcing the Monroe Doctrine. Leave the Middle East, Northeast Asia and NATO. The United Kingdom and Japan become the edges of the empire. Improve Russian relations. The U.S. can change its trade arrangements with the world. It can manage the dollar as a national currency the moment it gives up its imperial ambitions.

What does it mean for the future? First, if Trump doesn't change course, he risks losing in 2020 as his base abandons him. He won by slim majorities in key states in 2016. Demographics are worse each year for Trump and the Republicans, and he can't afford to lose any voters. His best hope today is that Democrats run a candidate who is much worse on immigration and foreign policy such that Trump keeps his base and picks up more former Democrats.

Longer-term, it means the populist moment hasn't past. The desire for populism is still rising on the left and the right. When Trump was running and after he won, I said his haters had better hope he succeeds because this will be the worst of populism in America. We have seen worse on the left already with full socialism, economically destructive ideas such as the Green New Deal and the dissolution of the United States via open borders and identity politics. We haven't seen what the right is going to throw out as its more radical option should Trump completely fail as Obama did before him. Recall that Lincoln also came out of nowhere, won only a plurality of votes and ended up as the most powerful President in U.S. history with powers that approached that of a Emperor or King.

Trump didn't offer a radical agenda. His goal was mainly to preserve the status quo by ending extreme immigration, foreign policy and trade policies. His attempt failed. There's still time for him to turn it around, but not much. He might still win re-election in 2020 for the same reason he won in 2016, because he at least offers a hope of reform while his opponent will likely run on doing more of everything, with more extreme foreign policy, more extreme immigration, more extreme economic policies and more racist identity politics that push Democrat and Independent whites into the GOP. If there's no major reform, however, America's populist moment still lies in the future and with each passing year, the range of possible outcomes widens. The scale of events is much greater than most realize. At a minimum, this is on scale with the 1920s to 1940s, if not the 1850s to 1870s or 1760s to 1780s.

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