The New Hampshire primary is now behind us, and the news sources are filled even more than before with the narrative that the voters are favoring the "anti-establishment" candidates. On the Republican side, supposedly that means New Hampshire winner Donald Trump. But is Trump really "anti-establishment" in any meaningful sense?
Certainly one could take the position that Trump is not part of the establishment in the sense that he has not previously held elective office. But he has attended lots of big fund-raisers, written lots of big checks to office-holders, and hobnobbed with all the big insiders of both parties. That sounds rather "establishment" to me, even for someone who has not held office. And even if we accept that not having held office means being "outside" the establishment, being outside the establishment is not the same as being anti-establishment. For me, to be anti-establishment, a candidate should be demonstrably against many of the bad things that the establishment is for. What makes the establishment the establishment is its support for the continuation of the corrupt status quo of overspending, subsidies, handouts and favors of which its members are beneficiaries. An anti-establishment candidate would be one who is willing to stand up and oppose the interests that are bleeding the public dry with these subsidies, handouts, and favors. Where is Trump on that?
I can't find any reason to think that Trump is anti-establishment in this sense. Has he said anything about how he would push back against ongoing growth of the government, seek to rein in spending, or cut any program? Nothing meaningful that I can find. The Iowa caucuses were the perfect opportunity to draw a line in the sand against one of the most wasteful and corrupt of all federal programs, the ethanol mandate. Cruz actually did it, and still won the caucuses. Trump? He seems to have avoided saying anything specific, but gave plenty of signals to indicate that he would not rock the ethanol boat. Here's Breitbart News quoting Trump on November 13:
“I went out to see some of the folks on the ethanol. Good stuff and great people, put a lot of people to work out here. I just want to thank them, they’re doing an amazing job.”
Go to the "Issues" section of Trump's web site, and you find almost nothing specific in the way of policy proposals. In the one and only proposal that I would actually say is on net somewhat to his credit, he has a fairly detailed proposal to simplify the tax code and lower rates. But even that one is marginally dishonest in that it likely doesn't remotely add up without eliminating big deductions like the ones for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions. There's no specific mention of that.
Out of the hundreds of issues in which the federal government is involved, Trump's web site only sets forth positions on five: tax policy (already discussed), U.S./China trade (he somehow thinks that government-to-government "deals" are what makes trade beneficial), reform of the VA (socialized medicine will work if only we have better management!), immigration, and Second Amendment rights (he's for them!! -- as is every other Republican candidate). How about a few of the dozens of other areas where the federal government has a vast footprint and needs to be reined in: overspending, ridiculous over-regulation, out-of-control EPA, Fannie and Freddie back to re-inflating the housing market, a trillion dollars of annual anti-poverty spending without ever reducing poverty by a single soul, public housing designed to trap recipients in a lifetime of poverty, education handouts used to entrench unions and keep kids trapped in failing schools, a budget that ratcheted up a trillion per year with the "stimulus" and then somehow never went back down, entitlements and Obamacare heading into socialist Ponzi-scheme-style death spirals, etc., etc., etc. Sorry, nothing about any of these issues.
I don't know about you, but if somebody is running for President and doesn't at least specifically say that he is going to push back against the federal beast, I'm going to believe that he's not going to push back and he's just going to allow the cancerous growth to continue.
When Trump does address (in speeches) the vast remainder of the government beyond his few specific proposals, it's to say that he knows how to make deals and can manage the bureaucracy better than the next guy. Well, here's some news on the fundamental difference between running a business and running the government. When you're running a business, you set up business units, and you can measure them by whether they are showing a profit or a loss. If a unit shows continual losses, you get rid of it and fire the people -- perhaps the thing Trump is best known for. In government, the whole idea is to lose more and more and more money. It's called growing your budget. In government, that's the goal for every single person who is in it. Hey, it's for the public good! There is no specific line that can tell you when you have gone over from public benefit to waste, and every single voice you will hear is advocating for more spending on every program.
Sure, there are a few things in Trump's proposals on trade and immigration that will discomfit a few Republican insiders. In the overall picture, these things are nibbling around the edges. The signal I take from Trump is that the vast corpus of the federal beast is safe with him against major attack. I'd call that "establishment."