Progressives should stop laughing at Donald Trump and instead applaud him. He is saying many things that progressives can agree on. For Trump to be diverting Republicans from their sterile rhetoric of God, gay marriage, abortion and empire is a good thing. He is a complement to Bernie Sanders who has his own populist message for Democrats.
Like Sanders, Trump is talking about healthcare, women's health, education, building infrastructure, re-industrializing America, employment and the American Dream, that used to have more opportunity for the middle class. It is some of the same issues that progressives have been talking about for a long time. Those issues are resonating with so-called conservatives now too. That and Trump's brute personality are packing in adoring crowds for his campaign speeches. Progressives should be thanking Trump.
On Friday, Donald Trump held a Town Hall at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire to an overflowing crowd of excited supporters. His biggest applause line came when he said he did not have time to be politically correct. It was an obvious reference to the media brouhaha over his bloody remarks about Fox News Megyn Kelly. The mainstream media and pundits have wishfully, and wrongly, proclaimed Trump's political demise. It is premature, as Trump's poll numbers are skyrocketing, confounding professional politicians and talking heads. The media is pulling their hair out because Trump will not obediently die according to their predictions.
Trump's growing fans are loving his combat with the media and his populist message that he says comes from his big heart. As evidence that he is genuine he bragged that he does not need notes nor a teleprompter for his speeches. Nor did he miss the opportunity to ridicule Obama as being lost for words when his teleprompter goes down. Trump scolds the media every chance he gets and called them dishonest on quoting him out of context for saying that the American Dream is dead.
Trump's message is that he is sincere and Bush-3 and the other candidates are just full of empty words that are paid for by their contributors and special interests. Trump is not bashful when he says he has bought all of them himself when they came calling and mocked them as being his puppets. Trump says that transparency of campaign contributions would help fix the political system and that the public has a right to know who is giving money to whom. Who can disagree with that although we need to get rid of Citizens United too?
Trump's no nonsense style and straight talk is why he is exciting crowds. Many voters are tired of the monotonous drone of candidates that bore them with issues that only serve political donors. People are sick of the same old fake-issue stump speeches about theoretical threats from Iran, ISIS and Putin.
Trump does a hit-n-run at those issues and then moves on to bread-n-butter that his fans really seem to care about. He blasts politicians for being "stupid" to let Mexico and China take away factories and jobs. That is a clear anti free-trade agreement message and he even dusted off H. Ross Perot's 1992 metaphor of NAFTA's loud sucking sound (watch) of jobs leaving the country. Progressives and conservatives can be united to defeat the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Most people want to hear about issues that affect them personally in their daily lives such as preserving Social Security. That is why Trump got a big applause Friday when he said that he is not going to cut Social Security. Whether he really means what he said, and not what he did not say, about Social Security is the unknown for now. Regardless it is great to hear crowds cheering Social Security again. Social Security was once a lightning rod that no politicians could touch without it killing them. Let us hope that Social Security is an issue that will make or break a political candidate again in 2016. By now almost everybody in the 99% knows that a so-called reform of Social Security is not a good thing for them.
When it comes to the economy, the issue that Trump keeps coming back to is re-industrializing the U.S. He calls it rebuilding America and the American Dream. That is what he is talking about when he says repeatedly that he would stop Ford from building a $2.5 billion automobile factory in Mexico instead of in the U.S. The way he says he would stop Ford cold is by threatening Ford with a 35% tariff on imported autos and parts coming into the U.S. from the proposed Mexican plant. Trump says that he would renegotiate U.S. trade agreements and he has slammed the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Trump called U.S. politicians stupid for allowing the outsourcing of U.S. factories and jobs to China. In his no nonsense style, the way he put it is that the U.S. gave China everything plus now we owe them $1.5 trillion dollars in accumulated debt. He ridiculed policy makers as incompetent for allowing that to happen. Trump shines for the crowd when he brags about being a rich businessman that knows how to be a tough and a smart negotiator. He says he will use those talents for the benefit of the American people.
In his Town Hall speech Trump criticized Bush-2 and Obama for the Iraq War as being reckless and he is on the record as opposing the war since 2003. He implied that the Iraq War wasted thousands of U.S. lives and trillions of dollars and then he said that Bush-2 and Obama stupidly let China take the Iraqi oil. He had harsh words for George Bush for taking out Saddam Hussein and destabilizing the balance between the opposing twin powers of Iraq and Iran. Trump is saying what progressives have been saying all along: that the U.S. is responsible for destabilizing the Middle East and it was not in the interest of the American people. Trump is enjoying Jeb Bush's painfully conflicted statements on the Iraq War that his brother started with lies.
Trump talked big on infrastructure at his Town Hall in New Hampshire. Somebody from the audience asked him if he favored renewing the space program and sending a man to Mars. Trump said that it would be "nice" but first he is going to rebuild U.S. airports. He spoke of dilapidated La-Guardia and Kennedy airports and compared them to modern and luxurious airports around the world, such as in China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Trump said that he wants to rebuild crumbling roads, schools and bridges in America too. How can progressives disagree with that?
Like the other Republicans, Trump says he wants to get rid of Obamacare but for different reasons than the others. He did not use the usual swipe that Obamacare is socialism. Instead he talked about replacing Obamacare with "something better" and breaking the health insurance monopoly with free-market competition with teeth. Without elaborating, he even repeatedly promised that he is going to be better than any Republican or Democrat on women's health.
Trump rightly said too that insurance companies are driving up medical costs because they do not have to compete. Trump claims that he has shunned big campaign contributors and he says he can take on insurance companies and big business. He even told the audience not to buy Oreo Cookies because Nabisco is relocating a factory to Mexico. Can anybody imagine another candidate calling for a boycott of a U.S. corporation and holding it up for public shaming? John F. Kennedy's taking on the steel companies popped into my mind, although it is a lot easier to smash a cookie than the U.S. steel industry.
The point is not that progressives should support Trump, but they should be applauding him. My message is that Trump is talking about many of the same issue that progressives have been talking about for a long time: issues such as reindustrialization, infrastructure projects, Social Security, healthcare, education and trade agreements. Wouldn't it be great if progressives and conservatives could actually talk more to each other and agree on many things? Even better if we can get politicians to act on the things on which we agree.