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The Age of 'Trumpismo'

Jan 17, 2017


BALTIMORE - 'Trumpismo,' we said to a colleague on Friday. 'That's all you have to know.'

We are looking forward to the next four years with a mixture of curiosity, dread, and rank voyeurism.

Not that we know WHAT will happen. Not at all. But we have a hint about HOW it will come about.

Symbolic Grandstanding

It's all about the first-person singular.

Even George W Bush said he was embarrassed to say 'I' when speaking about his policies and plans. Not Trump. He uses it regularly and extravagantly, even when it is egomaniacally meaningless.

For instance, at last year's Republican Convention, he claimed that the nation was in crisis. Then he famously declared, 'I alone can fix it.'

It is new to Americans, but Donald Trump's leadership style is familiar to voters south of the Rio Grande. Instead of focusing on coherent policy or consistent ideology, it emphasises quirky personality and symbolic grandstanding:

Big Pharma is 'getting away with murder'.

'Trump says he is "making progress"' in the Carrier deal.

'Trump says "no way" to Toyota plant in Mexico.'

'Thank you to Linda Bean for your great support and courage... Buy LLBean.'

And website BuzzFeed, which last week alleged the Kremlin had compromising information on Trump, is a 'failing pile of garbage'.

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Good and Evil

The typical working man is always under the thumb of someone he considers an evil dumbbell.

The boss, the police, the feds, the bureaucrats - by singling them out and embarrassing them, Trump fights for the ordinary Joe.

A billionaire. Soon commander in chief. He fears no one. Not the media. Not even the spooks at the CIA. He is a brave truth-teller. Or so it appears...

This approach to politics has several advantages.

First, it is simply more entertaining than traditional party blah-blah; it is more engaging and easier to follow.

Second, it turns Mr Trump into a champion: It sticks to the simple formula for professional wrestling and TV drama - with a hero...bad guys...and the inevitable triumph of good over evil.

Third, it avoids the soft, ambiguous mud of real policies...and real political negotiations with Congress (which would most likely make things worse anyway).

Trumpismo plays to the masses. Their hero takes on the Washington bureaucracy one day...ISIS murderers the next...and on the weekend, private companies or even individuals are subject to Twitter attacks.

Bobbing and Weaving

Under Trumpismo, the people's hero is not held back by any particular loyalty - neither to individuals nor to creeds.

Conservative? Liberal? Democrat? Republican?

Voters don't particularly care. And neither does their leader. Instead, he is free to bob and weave...pitting one group against another...surprising his enemies by attacking from unexpected directions and taking daring and novel positions for which they lack 'talking points.'

Nor is Trump forever at odds with yesterday's enemies or forever bound to today's friends. That's why he can so easily embrace Goldman alumni.

Even though he was completely against the clan during the campaign...and they were completely against him...the Goldman boys will be useful to him now.

And he will fire them, too - just as he did for the audiences of his reality TV show - as soon as he needs someone to blame for the failing economy.

Heroes and Villains

Yes...unrestrained by permanent alliances and unanchored to an ideology, Mr Trump will be fun to watch.

He will propose policies that he claims will 'fix' the health care system...or bring jobs back home...or double the rate of economic growth.

And woe to the politician or CEO who resists! He will get the same treatment as 'Little Marco' Rubio... 'Look at that face' Carly Fiorina...and 'Lyin' Ted' Cruz.

Mr Trump's tweets will let it be known that these villains are standing between the hero and his victory...and between the people and their Promised Land.

No one will know or care about the substance of the proposal - not with the entertaining dogfight taking place on the TV in front of them.

Tomorrow...a useful and successful model for Mr Trump: former Argentine President Juan Peron.

BILL BONNER Founder, Agora Inc

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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