Monitoring Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, hanging out in the Trump Tower lobby, and cross-checking random president-elect statements against real-time stock quotes are actual media jobs in the current political environment. The atmosphere of chaos that ensues presumes a radically different style of presidential leadership.
But look beyond the shiny objects, the bread and circus that enthuse base supporters and infuriate opponents. The truth is that Donald Trump, if you cut through this clutter, will tell you exactly who he is. And he’s a bog-standard corporate Republican.
Listen to the other bog-standard corporate Republican who introduced him last week at a Carrier plant in Indiana, Vice President–elect Mike Pence. “He picked up the phone,” Pence said, referring to negotiations with Carrier’s parent company that ultimately led to it maintaining less than half its presence in the state, temporarily. “He talked about our plans, our plans to make America more competitive, to reduce taxes, to roll back regulations, to put American jobs and American workers first again.”
Notice that you did not hear about tariffs, or threats to cancel federal contracts. Donald Trump has said no company will outsource jobs from the United States without consequences. But here are the consequences, from Trump’s mouth later at that Carrier event: “We’re lowering our business tax from 35 percent, hopefully down to 15 percent…. The other thing we’re doing is regulations.”
Look out corporations, Donald Trump won’t rest until you pay less on your earnings and get a free pass to pollute and endanger your workers!
In this, Trump has been remarkably consistent. Yesterday on The Today Show, responding to his tweet about Boeing’s cost overruns on a replacement Air Force One, Trump changed the subject: “And by the way, we’re lowering taxes in this country. We’re getting rid of 90 percent, maybe 85 percent of the regulations which are stifling business. Boeing is going to be a tremendous beneficiary of that.”
Cutting taxes, cutting regulations. That’s a policy agenda that would be comfortable in a George W. Bush State of the Union address, or one by Reagan for that matter. For all the appearances of novelty, it’s quite banal. Donald Trump is another handmaiden to capital, following other handmaidens to capital in his wake.
The idea that corporations are unnerved by the uncertainty is a head fake. It constructs a fake image of Trump as a populist warrior rather than a corporate hack, something CEOs are pleased to have out there to hide their giddiness at the coming bounty. Trump said it himself on Today: “They’re so unnerved that the stock market is at an all-time record since I’ve been elected.” The sustained market reaction is a far better indicator of the corporate mood than Boeing’s short-term drop after a tweet. By the way, Boeing stock has jumped since that incident to a 52-week high.