Donald Trump is our latest counterculture political hero who has captured the attention of millions of frustrated American voters — both Democrat and Republican — with his sharp criticism of the self-perpetuating and often incompetent Washington political establishment.
As such, Mr. Trump represents his own “Reaganesque” style — a genuine popular approach to politics — and thereby threatens many of the traditional power bases in Washington.
He is a businessman and promoter and has never been a politician. His decisions have always been based on money, profit and loss. That’s what you do if you are in business, and it should not surprise anyone that Mr. Trump thinks that way. It’s what he does.
Career politicians are also promoters, but with an essential difference: Regardless of their political affiliation, they always spend other people’s money, so they have no personal financial attachment or consequence to their actions.
In addition — and for good reason — Mr. Trump believes that we have a habit of making very bad deals for ourselves — e.g., the latest Iran nuke deal — when he looks at our diplomatic, and especially our trade negotiation record. So he has suggested ways we might increase our leverage when we negotiate, just as he has always done when negotiating his business deals.
Again, this is the way it works in business, so having a military that “nobody will mess with,” for example, is another way to say this, as is the idea of building a wall on our southern border. Often, the motive behind such statements is simple: What do we get for not building a wall? If it achieves the same result, we might do it, and this is the essence of a good business deal. However, and just as important, the other side to a negotiation must be convinced that you really will build a wall before they will offer you something anywhere near as valuable.
Also implicit in this approach — and Mr. Trump has written about it in “The Art of the Deal” — is that the real dealmaker must always be prepared to walk away from any negotiation. And the other parties to the deal must believe it. In short, it’s called leverage, and anyone who has bought a car or a house, just for example, understands this dynamic.
Now that Mr. Trump has closed out the rest of the Republican presidential field, what does a business guy like him do next?
He continues his “negotiation” to win the general election in November. However, from here on out it’s more a matter of how much money and other support he can get from the Republican National Committee (RNC) to continue his national political campaign. This because he has probably reached the end of the “self-financed” part of his run for president. And especially after he has been nominated, he will expect an essentially free ride from the RNC for the rest of his campaign. Who could blame him?
This as he takes on “establishment” Washington — both Republican and Democrat — in the general election. His approach is that since Ronald Reagan, neither party has served in the best interest of the American people, who have been sold out by badly negotiated trade deals and cheap illegal labor.
Meanwhile, he will argue that the Democrats, by virtue of their liberal immigration policies and purposely ineffective border control, have for decades manipulated American voter demographics to support their political control and socialist agenda.
So what is my real fear about Donald Trump?
I don’t worry about his sometimes outrageous and gratuitous comments. Most of it is hype and he and the media love the attention — just look at what happened to Megyn Kelly’s ratings. If elected, he will moderate these tactics and will actually become more “politically correct” — even though we won’t expect him to acknowledge it. It will just happen — this as he becomes more of a political animal and learns the ropes of politics in Washington.
What I do worry about is that the RNC will “stiff” him after he is nominated with far less financial aid and support than he will need to win the general election, especially against an extremely well-financed Democratic opponent.
What could Mr. Trump do about this?
He could walk — and the Republican establishment takes a deep breath and quickly nominates their more “traditional” candidate.
However, “we the people” clearly lose in this deal because it’s back to “business as usual” in the world of deadlocked Washington deficit spending politics. As a result — and in the view of many — we also continue in a downward spiral of our quality of life and increasingly diminished influence in international politics and national security affairs.
Rather than this sad scenario, let’s hope the RNC steps up to fully fund the people’s overwhelming choice for their party’s candidate for president.
Otherwise, he will walk.
• Daniel Gallington served as an arms control negotiator during the Reagan administration and writes about national security.