The Left, across the whole world, hates Donald Trump. I’m really, really not a fan of the man myself, but it interests me to figure out how the reasons I don’t like him and think he’ll be a terrible president differ from those held by leftists.
I think what I have in common with the Left in terms of not liking Trump is the president’s socially illiberal outlook. He’s happy to ban whole countries of people from even visiting America for any reason; his views on women and women’s rights which we do not need to go over again; his buddying up with Putin.
But the main reasons I don’t like Trump are for his economic protectionism, his foreign policy which looks to see America’s role in the world diminish, and his unfunded infrastructure projects, such as that stupid wall he wants to build. In other words, most of the stuff I don’t like about Trump sees me attacking him from what was, up until very recently, the orthodox right. Realising this made me think about left-wing attacks on Trump in a new way.
Start with economic protectionism. Now, the things Trump are proposing come wrapped in a layer of nationalistic nastiness that has distracted the Left, but when you strip all that away, what Trump is trying to do here is socialist in its foundations (Bannon has described himself before as a Leninist, let us recall). He wants to stop cheap goods coming into America in order to create jobs, all while raising tax revenues from what would mostly (in terms of bulk funds, I mean) come from large corporations. Okay, he’ll waste the money raised via these means on that needless wall, I grant you that, but the method involved here comes right out of the hard left playbook: tax corporations in a way they will not be able to avoid in order to pay for public services.
If you think I’ve pushed this comparison with socialism too far, at the very, very least what Trump is doing with this Mexico thing is a total reverse on neoliberalism, which is all about businesses being allowed to buy and sell where they like in a globalised marketplace. Taxing large corporations 20% on goods is the very antithesis of neoliberalism. I’ve read and listened to a lot of left-wing criticism of Trump’s plan to slap this massive tariff on Mexican items coming into the US, and what is interesting is that all of them are unconsciously attacking Trump from the right. In other words, people like the Young Turks are using neoliberal arguments without realising it for why this Trump Mexico plan will not work. Just for the record, they are completely right about everything they say on this topic (Trump’s plan is really, really bad and will not work whatsoever). Nevertheless, it is fascinating watching the American Left using arguements that only those on the Right would have used until very recently.
On the other hand, I have to grant the Left the following: he plans to slash taxes for the rich even further, take money away from actually useful public services (he’s a regular Republican in that sense, for sure), channelling the money instead into idiotic white elephant projects, and the socially illiberal stuff is really, really foul. As I’ve written before, Trump – like all populists at present – is an odd mixture of left and right. I don’t deny there is plenty of right-wing stuff in his agenda, it’s just that he’s taken plenty from the hard left’s agenda as well, something that goes mostly unremarked upon.
As a result, Trump is changing the very nature of left-right politics in America, and perhaps elsewhere in the world as well. He has managed to get the American Left to defend neoliberal economics, even if they don’t fully realise what they’re doing as they’re doing it.