A key to beating Trump is to point out that on fiscal and other domestic policy at least, the election contest will not be to determine whether there will be another President Clinton or instead a President Trump. There will be either a new President Clinton or a President Manafort.
Every time Trump tries to hint at the beginning of a back-away from Conservative Movement fiscal and other domestic policy, and toward some genuine economic-populist fiscal and anti-Chamber of Commerce regulatory policy, Edgar Bergen, er, [longtime Republican operative and current Trump campaign chief] Paul Manafort, quickly aborts it.
This will be a source of amusement for me going forward, although less so if Clinton fails to note this early and often, whether for fear of losing campaign donations or otherwise. And less so still if she appears to be running as President Manafort Light.
— Me, here, May 9
Call me prescient. Or just observant. In contrast to my own party’s standard-bearer-in-waiting. Who is not.
A dismaying hallmark of Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been her penchant for highlighting the obvious or the already-very-well-known. That she’s a woman and would be the first woman president, for example. And that Donald Trump has campaigned on xenophobia and racism, is a blatant misogynist, has invited violence toward protesters at his rallies, and is pretty clearly mentally unbalanced, for another. The theory is that the public needs to be told or reminded of these things because they’re unaware of them or have forgotten them, see.
Yet, hiding from the public, but (presumably) in plain sight of Clinton and her campaign for more than a half-year, has been Trump’s extreme-supply-side tax plan, posted suddenly on his website last October after months of intimating a preference for anti-supply-side, far more progressive tax policy. Reversing himself, dramatically but quietly, that proposal out-supply-sided, out-fiscal-regressive’d the Koch brothers’ candidates’ proposals, in order to fend off a threatened torrent of anti-Trump ads by a Koch-affiliated super PAC. Which he did.
Trump’s intended audience, the Kochs, et al., of course have known of that tax proposal since the day he posted it on his campaign’s website. But since he never mentioned it at his rallies or in interviews, his supporters didn’t. And they still don’t, because Trump has avoided telling them, and so has Hillary Clinton.
True to form, Clinton sticks mainly to her stock in trade: anti-anti-women, anti-anti-ethnic-and-racial-animus. A.k.a. identity politics. Important issues, of course. But so is supply-side, extremely regressive fiscal policy. She knows that everyone knows Trump’s campaign positions and conduct concerning the first set of issues, and that very few people know of his tax proposal. Yet she remains mum on the latter. Notwithstanding that all she actually needs to do to win in November is inform the public of the latter. At least until, I had feared, Trump withdraws his Heritage Foundation-inspired tax proposal, slapped together by adopting Jeb Bush’s and just increasing the size of the tax cuts for the wealthy, and began once again intimating support for a more progressive tax code than the current one.
And for about 24 hours late last week, after vacillating between trying to unify the party (via supply-side fiscal policy) and telling the party to go to hell (reversing himself on his supply-side tax proposal), he hinted at the first steps toward a reversal, prompted by Paul Ryan’s refusal to indicate support for Trump. But faced with the immediate need to decide to largely self-fund his general-election campaign or instead be coopted by the party’s establishment, he opted for cooptation.
Hook, line … and sinker. Explicitly. Very publicly. And with the vigor of a genuine convert, in a burning-his-bridges interview on CNN on Monday. Reiterated even more clearly to The New York Times’ The Upshot blogger Peter Eavis later Monday. Eavis writes today:
The 1 percent can breathe a small collective sigh of relief.
Hillary Clinton’s platform contains many new taxes for the wealthy, and in recent days it seemed that Donald Trump might be moving in the same direction. When asked Sunday on “Meet the Press” about taxing the rich, Mr. Trump said: “For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it’s going to go up. And you know what? It really should go up.”
He now says he wasn’t talking about the current income tax rate for people in the highest bracket, which is 39.6 percent. If he had been, it would have been a big move for Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to push that rate higher. His official tax plan envisions a top rate of 25 percent. In a phone interview on Monday, I sought clarification from Mr. Trump on his remarks about raising taxes on the rich. I asked him whether the highest earners would be paying more than 39.6 percent if he were president.
“No, in fact, you’d be lower than that,” Mr. Trump said.
But how, given that he had said that taxes would be going up for the wealthy? Mr. Trump explained that he meant he might have to accept a top tax rate that is higher than the 25 percent his plan calls for. To get his tax plans through Congress, he would probably have to compromise, but even after such concessions, the top rate would be lower than it is now, he said.
The title of Eavis’s post? “Donald Trump’s Plan to Raise Taxes on Rich: Just Kidding.”
That is all Clinton needs to win against Trump. That’s it. It also probably is all the Democrats need in order to win control of both houses of Congress. Yet Clinton thinks triangulation is the way to go right now. So, mum’s the word. And I guess will continue to be.
Old habits die hard. Or don’t die at all.
For all her habitual blow-with-the-winds, follow-the-crowd positioning, Clinton is remarkably slow in recognizing a change in the direction in which the crowd is going.
Her campaign reportedly is ringing its hands today that it, and she, must continue to fight a primary contest that she has already effectively won, rather than redirecting her campaign fully toward the general election. By which she and her campaign mean rebutting Trump on what Trump rebuts himself on month after month. And, reportedly, apprising the public of things in Trump’s background that no part of the general public knows about and that have nothing directly to do with actual policy preferences and proposals. But they do not mean making known to the blue-collar Rust Belt voters who will determine the outcome of the result in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania that Trump is proposing and vowing not to back away from a plan to dramatically reduce federal taxes for the very wealthy.
And it probably will not mean noting that he’s now mouthing, word-for-word, the Mitt Romney/Club for Growth lines about jobs creators needing very low taxes so that they can create jobs. Or pay more in dividends, stock buybacks and executive bonuses.
Tomorrow, behind closed doors with Paul Ryan & Friends, he will swear fealty to Mitt Romney’s platform. And not just the part written literally, it turns out, by the Heritage Foundation and CNBC! Also the part written by the Federalist Society. Including on Supreme Court and lower-court appointments. Suffice it to say that his promise to hand Supreme Court and lower federal court appointments back to the Federalist Society would bode well for the Koch legal agenda. And for the continued life of Citizens United.
For unions and people who aren’t so fond of Wall Street, though, not so much.
This all can be said to the public in a few sentences—most of them quotes from those two interviews, one of them videotaped and readily available. There’s Trump, himself, saying these things. This is what unifying “the party” means. The price of running a modern general election campaign is this. Literally. And figuratively. The pundits and Hillary Clinton have their eye on the red herring.
This candidate is the ultimate 0.1% proxy–potentially the most successful Trojan Horse since the Trojan War. Trump has perfected to a science the art of the deal.
Clinton can begin saying these things now. She doesn’t have to wait until the end of the primary season to begin saying them. Her super PACs don’t, either. And Bernie Sanders’ supporters won’t object.
Trust me. I’m one of them.