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Establishment Republicans Misunderstand Trump

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

Donald Trump hides his argument in the plain sight of his trademarked slogan: “Make America Great Again.” He is tapping into the belief that America was once great, that it is no longer, and that he can restore it to glory.

Trump, in effect, argues he can extract wealth from minorities and from the rest of the world and that he will bring that wealth to America. The Republican Party establishment will never beat Trump until it understands his argument.

Trump’s argument appeals to United States citizens who are watching their wages stagnate as the one percent accumulates more wealth. Television and history have led United States citizens to expect a better life than their resources currently allow. Laissez-faire capitalism presses wages down to survival levels and below that. It leaves the poorest citizens wanting the American Dream but unable to attain it—even as the richest one percent consumes more and more of America’s resources.

United States citizens are seeking more resources to give them more liberty to fill their needs and to pursue their happiness. A nation can grow its wealth in a finite number of ways: encourage work, discourage waste, grow the economy through macroeconomics, or compete over existing wealth with someone else. Trump is focusing on the fourth method. By excluding religious minorities from the United States, he argues, the United States will protect its wealth. By accusing immigrants as bringing drugs and crime and labeling them as “rapists,” Trump expresses both (a) his belief that immigrants are taking wealth from the United States and (b) his intent to stop them.

When Trump promises to grow America by “winning,” he is arguing, essentially, that he will compete with the rest of the world, extract other countries’ wealth, and bring it back to the United States. Trump asserts he will build a wall on the Rio Grande, and he make Mexico pay for it. Thus, he argues both that he will protect the United States’ wealth from the world; and that he will prevail in competing against Mexico over who will pay for the wall.

Trump’s arguments are paralyzing the Republican Party establishment because the establishment does not understand his arguments. It traditionally seeks electoral success by advocating for its macroeconomic method: it will grow citizens’ wealth by lowering taxes and by decreasing governmental regulations to grow business. Stronger businesses, it contends, will increase demand for labor, and thereby raise wages. Trump’s arguments are consistent with the establishment Republican Party arguments, but he add more methods for growing wealth. Unless or until the establishment Republican Party adopts some of Trump’s arguments about groups competing over wealth, it will continue to lose.

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