Donald Trump Is #NoLabels On Mushrooms
The myth of the manager-savior
Reporters and pundits tend to view Donald Trump "as an inconsistent conservative," Mark Schmitt writes at Polyarchy. But perhaps, Schmitt suggests, "it makes more sense to see Trump as simply unmoored from any strong ideological commitments." Not in the sense that Trump flip-flops a lot and tells his audience what it wants to hear—we all know that already—but in terms of his core appeal:
Running through all his riffs is really a rejection of ideology and an assertion of simple competence. Even on immigration, Trump has been insistent that his Muslim freeze is not based on any deep conviction, but just a pause to "figure out what's going on." (Trump is quite insistent on this point when criticized.)
The nerve Trump has struck may not be one of ideological extremism, but rather a raw desire for managerial competence and an exhaustion with ideological battle. To those of us who know a little bit about Trump's business history, this seems risible. If we recognize the limits of presidential power and the complexity of the veto points in the US political system, Trump seems dangerously ignorant. But if you don't pay much attention to legislative politics, didn't read Spy magazine in the early '90s, and assume that Trump is the unfailing managerial genius that he presents himself to be, it makes perfect sense.
The underlying belief here—the idea that what the country really needs is a good, strong manager—is itself ideologically loaded. But the people who embrace this idea see themselves as anti-ideological, in that familiar #NoLabels manner. As my colleague Matt Welch wrote a few years ago, "the single most powerful ideological strain in today's body politic" may be the one that "sells itself as being beyond ideology—hence, more attractive to those who nurture a rational disgust for politicians—and then so readily adheres to the program of whoever is wielding power." Or in Trump's case, the man who wants to wield power.
This is one of the ways Trump resembles Ross Perot, who used to say he'd handle one issue or another by getting the "best experts" in a room together, having them figure out a solution, and enacting their plan with no nonsense. Trump may be under the impression that he's the best expert on everything himself, but he's offering the same dream of a manager-hero who saves the country by overcoming politics. Given his history, he's a weird vessel for that fantasy. But it's still going to be a fantasy no matter who stars in it.