They say Donald Trump is the change-maker, the unconventional outsider who’s nothing like anybody else on the national stage and who will bring change to Washington, D.C. and make American great again!
But is he, really?
If you watched Monday night’s presidential debate closely, you might have noticed something: Trump’s style may be unconventional, but his positions — his actual policy ideas, to the extent you can discern any — are conventional as hell.
Take his tax plan: Tax cuts for all income earners, a plan that critics say will help the well-off far more than the middle-class. Hillary Clinton called it “Trumped up trickle down” because of the percentages involved, but at its heart, it’s the Ronald Reagan-era idea that tax cuts at the top will bring economic prosperity to all.
Corporate taxes? Trump’s plan to reduce corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 15 percent might sound familiar. It closely mirrors the House Republican tax plan, which called for a reduction from 35 percent to 20 percent.
Trump denounced “regulations on top of regulations,” something you’d be guaranteed to hear at your local Republican Party meeting on any given week in America.
Trump thinks we’re walking away from coal-fired energy too quickly, and losing jobs as a result. That’s a traditional Republican belief, as is the notion that keeping energy jobs in “dirty” fossil fuels is more important than switching to clean energy to fight climate change.
Trump said it would be “smart” of him to exploit loopholes to pay as little federal income tax as possible. Even Mitt Romney (who has subsequently called Trump “a phony, a fraud”) agrees with that idea.
So, by the way, do nearly 100 percent of all American taxpayers.
Trump wants to be the “law and order” candidate, just like Richard Nixon back in 1968. Trump wants to bring back “stop and frisk” — a program that at least one judge said targeted minorities and was unconstitutional — in order to reduce crime.
Trump wants to build a physical wall to combat illegal immigration on the southern border, as well as hire more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to arrest and deport millions of illegal immigrants who are already living here. Other than adding thousands of new employees to the federal work-force, it’s still an idea that most Republicans would consider common sense.
In fact, the only areas where Trump does part ways with his GOP cohorts are on the wisdom of the Iraq War and trade. He says the invasion never should have happened and that American interests would be better off with strongmen dictators left in place as a hedge against ISIS. And Trump’s protectionist rhetoric is making the business wing of the Republican Party very nervous.
That leaves us with Trump’s personality, the one thing about him that is different. He’s braggadocios (despite his denial of the label at Monday’s debate) and willing to say sometimes outrageous (and often inaccurate) things that “regular” politicians would never say, at risk of their careers.
But there’s the rub: Like it or not, Trump is a politician now. And no matter how outsize his personality, if he’s elected, he will find his unstoppable force encountering a truly immovable object, the ennui of Washington, D.C.
He and his fans will find that remaking American in the Trumpian image is far more difficult than they think.
In a situation like that, it may be better to have somebody who knows where the gears and levers and pulleys are, and how they work, so that at the very least a modicum of moderate progress might be made.
Anybody know of a candidate who fits that bill?
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.