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“Trump Is Performing A Kind Of Straddle-Pander”: Why Donald Trump Is Happily Uttering Conservative Heresies

Reince Priebus, the long-suffering chairman of the Republican National Committee, has now resorted to pleading with Donald Trump not to rewrite the party’s platform. “All that anxiety, just take it off the table,” Priebus said on a radio show Monday. “Tell people that, that you don’t want to rewrite, you appreciate and agree with the platform the way it is.” I’m sure Trump will oblige, since it’s not like he cares one way or another what’s contained in some document he’s never going to bother to read, let alone feel bound by. Meanwhile, Trump will continue to utter heresies against conservative dogma whenever the mood strikes him.

So it was that on Sunday, Trump not only said that taxes for the wealthy might go up when he’s president, but came out as minimum wage increase-curious. Don’t wait for him to actually advocate an increase in the federal minimum, though. Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, Trump expressed both support and opposition to an increase. “I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour,” he said. “I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.”

The fact that Trump didn’t actually advocate an increase will be little comfort to Republicans watching him trod all over their cherished beliefs. Because even if he didn’t say the federal minimum should be raised, he expressed support for the idea that $7.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on, even if you aren’t in the market for solid gold toilets and faux-Versailles furnishings. That cuts against the rhetorical underpinnings of Republican opposition to an increase, which include the ideas that minimum wage jobs are only held by teenagers anyway, and the government shouldn’t be saying what is and isn’t enough for anyone to live on. Worst of all, Trump expressed sympathy for the working poor and entertained the idea that government should help them.

Saying “Let the states decide” provides no ideological safe harbor — though Trump probably doesn’t understand this. The truth is that despite their rhetoric about federalism, Republicans — just like Democrats — are fans of federal power when the federal government is doing something they want, and fans of state power when the states are doing something they want. Republicans want states to be able to slash Medicaid benefits, but don’t like it when states legalize marijuana. They talk about how the best government is closest to the people, but when a local government passes a non-discrimination ordinance or increases its minimum wage, they’ll pass a preemption law forbidding any local government in the state from creating a more liberal environment than the Republican legislature wants.

So once again, because Trump didn’t rise up through the political system and because he just doesn’t care all that much about issues, he doesn’t have a firm grasp on the combination of moral and practical arguments that provide the foundation for the conservative position on the issue at hand. It isn’t just that he doesn’t get what he’s supposed to believe, it’s that he doesn’t get why he’s supposed to believe it.

And truth be told, Republicans would rather not talk about the minimum wage at all, since this is one of the most unpopular positions they hold. Polls regularly show 70 percent of the public supporting an increase. That’s the biggest reason Democrats always bring the topic up, but it’s also an economic policy that’s simple to understand, and one where government can have a direct and immediate effect on people’s lives.

Unlike other proposals candidates might make, a minimum wage isn’t something you’d have to wait for. It’s not like the tax cuts Republicans say will eventually trickle down to ordinary people, and it’s not like the infrastructure investments Democrats say will produce more sustained economic growth in the long run. Everyone knows what it means to get a raise.

So Trump is performing a kind of straddle-pander, trying to show he’s on the right side of the issue while not actually taking a position in opposition to his party. But this comes at a time when those favoring an increase in the minimum are on the offensive. California and New York have recently passed laws hiking the minimum to $15 an hour (phased in over a period of years), and multiple states will have increases on their ballots in November. Chances are most or all of those measures will succeed (minimum wage initiatives usually do), and Republicans will be even more eager to change the subject.

Conservatives will take Trump’s squishiness on this issue as yet more proof that he isn’t a true conservative, and they’ll be right. But he also seems to have an intuitive sense, at least some of the time, of what people want to hear. Despite all the voters he’s alienated by taking Republican ideas and cranking them up to 11, Trump has also rejected some of the most unpopular positions his party has, on things like cutting Social Security or defunding Planned Parenthood.

That doesn’t mean voters will buy that he’s some kind of man of the people. But by speaking favorably about a higher minimum wage, Trump is once again making the rest of his party look bad.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect;  Contributor, The Week, May 10, 2016

May 12, 2016 - Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The lesson being learned is it is hard to hold mercury.

    Like

    Comment by Keith | May 13, 2016 | Reply


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