There has been next to no explanation of where the Trump Phenomenon has come from as far as its ideological provenance goes…
We have seen some commentators dismiss it as a classic anti-intellectual right-wing populist movement, akin to the George Wallace and Pat Buchanan campaigns. However, Trump’s actual political antecedents are more complex and interesting, if no less disturbing, than the aforementioned rabble rousers.
I’m thinking of another colorful billionaire with an unconventional personal life, who retired from the business world to take on elites pushing political and economic globalization.
Twenty years before Brexit, Anglo-French tycoon sir James (“Jimmy”) Goldsmith founded a one issue political movement. The purpose of his “Referendum Party” was to force the British government to allow a referendum on whether to cede power over their economy to the European Union, in particular to replace the pound with the euro. Even though Goldsmith and his party were not successful in that election, they crystalized the whole “Euro-skeptic” movement, which culminated in the vote to leave the EU this summer.
Goldsmith at the time wrote a book that reflected his thinking on a variety of issues, “The Trap.”
In it, he particularly focuses on free trade and the costs it imposes on the developed world. He begins the book by explaining how the fall of the Soviet Union and the shift of China to a form of state capitalism meant that four billion people entered the world economy for the first time.
With the ability to shift capital (and the jobs it creates) around the world instantaneously, business will shift production of goods and services to places where wages are lowest. When 47 Vietnamese or Filipinos can be employed for the cost of one person in a developed country like France or the U.S., how could it be otherwise?
Another point in Goldsmith’s book that I had really not thought about was an unintended consequence of the “Green Revolution” of high- yield crops. This “intensive” agriculture had untold social costs as millions of displaced farm workers fled to urban areas, to say nothing of its impact on the environment. This is what has led to huge sprawling urban centers like Sao Paolo and Johannesburg, as well as the 15 Chinese cities with populations in excess of ten million people each.
I’m not claiming that The Donald has thought through these difficult issues, first raised by Goldsmith in a lecture at the Sorbonne (!) in 1992. However I would not be surprised if Trump’s one man brain trust, young policy wonk/speech writer Stephen Miller, had studied Goldsmith’s platform. (One such prediction,of huge migrations of impoverished people from the chaos and poverty of the Third World, was uncannily prescient.)
Miller was the drafter of Trump’s convention speech, sounding themes that Miller himself had test marketed by working them into warm up speeches he’d made to the audiences at Trump rallies over the last year. Interestingly, Goldsmith’s son Zachary, a Conservative M.P., ran for mayor of London this year. When Zach had the temerity to point out his opponent’s ties to radical Islam, many Left-wing critics said he was a bigot like Donald Trump! Maybe Trump is unwittingly repaying Zach’s late father for giving him some winning issues!
Stranger things have happened!
I was also surprised at the virulence of the criticism directed toward Trump in such traditional conservative publications like The National Review and The Weekly Standard.
It then occurred to me that this is just the latest round in the internecine feud between neo-conservatives and paleo-conservatives, with the latter squarely in Trump’s camp.
Any doubt on this point was resolved by going to the Wikipedia entry for “Paleo-cons.” They now include in their number “Republican nominee “(that’s how current it is!)”Donald Trump” who has embraced the classic paleo-con positions on “rebuilding infrastructure, protective tariffs, securing borders and stopping immigration, . . . and isolationism.” Bruce Wilson, Salon Magazine, 7-16-2016, Nothing happens in a vacuum in politics.