Donald Trump takes on the Establishment. Ha-ha! Here’s Donald Trump’s closer. His targets? HRC, Jewish Fed Chair Janet Yellen, Jewish investor par excellence George Soros, Jewish Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and the “failed and corrupt establishment” and the “global power structure.” Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo correctly calls out Mr. Trump and his advertisement for their anti-Semitic themes. Alas, that’s not my point.
Mr. Trump is a billionaire real estate developer. He did it the easy way. Rich daddy. Borrowed money. Insider favors. Establishment all the way! So why did he decide to run against the Establishment that has offered him so much? Here’s my theory.
The Establishment can’t stand this guy. Rich men—almost all of the crew which runs our finances are men—have gamed the system for generations. They’ve done it quietly, and even when they’ve been outed, their politesse allows them to survive. (Recall that Mr. Blankfein and Goldman Sachs were the poster children for the bad behavior which brought on the Great Recession, Mr. Blankfein still runs the company, and its stock value has increased by 75% over the past five years.)
The Establishment hates Mr. Trump because he’s not like them, and not like them in an ugly way. In the main corporate and financial America circa 2016 reflects the meritocracy which America has become. The ladder is harder to climb now, but the people at the top started climbing that ladder decades ago. Many are first, second, or third generation Americans, still close to the immigrant experience which Mr. Trump abandons with ease. (His grandparents and his mom were all born in Europe.) They’re highly educated, very bright people. They’ve worked hard, and they have succeeded.
Our political Establishment shares many of the same traits. Bushes and a few others aside, our leaders benefited from our American meritocracy. The Clintons. The Obamas, big time. (And Joe Biden, and Tim Kaine, and Mike Pence, and Richard Bruce Cheney, etc. Bernie Sanders too!)
Donald Trump is not a product of any meritocracy. He’s the rich boy, born on third, who thinks he hit a triple. Never gracious enough to even acknowledge his personal advantages, or those attendant to being born in the greatest city in the greatest country on Earth, during boom years for his chosen field. Also, loud, arrogant, cheap, creepy, etc.
So, what? The financial Establishment hates its bad boy, and … back atcha, in spades. But, the enemy of my enemy is, sometimes, not my friend. American financiers, for all of the polish they have (and the Donald doesn’t), have not been kind to most of us. That said, they’ve used the capitalist system—often at its outer reaches—to make themselves and their shareholders wealthy. Just like Donald Trump, only with the brains, polish, and discipline which have allowed them to eclipse his “out-of-the-box” advantages. He will not challenge a set of rules which have kept him rich, no matter how much he hates the rest of the rich men. Some may suffer, but the crony capitalism which has fueled the financial Establishment and Donald Trump will survive.
(As for the political Establishment, if we’re stupid enough to elect this bad hombre—this Donald Trump character—the political Establishment can expect plenty of retribution. To what end, though? The last time we elected a president whose psyche was bound up in not belonging, we got the crime spree called Watergate, complete with a White House Enemies List. That scene ended badly, but we should recall that, unlike Mr. Trump, Richard Nixon, was whip-smart, interested, and engaged. Bent, for sure, but bright.)
So, if we elect this charlatan, we can expect no serious attempt to upset the Establishment which Donald Trump rails against. We can expect nothing which will benefit regular people. So what can we expect? Score settling, on a scale which will make Richard Nixon seem like a piker. Donald Trump taking on the Establishment? Surely we jest!