In the 16 months since Donald Trump announced his candidacy, he has said many hard-hitting and provocative things.
But he has also said the single most important thing of the campaign.
It was a statement that was so obvious and deceptively simple that it largely evaporated into the political ether. But it was also a statement of such power that it transformed the Republican presidential race — and may very well determine the future path of the nation. And it was only five words long.
“I’m rich!” he exclaimed. “I’m really rich.”
That declarative statement was as profound a statement any candidate for president could make — because for eight long years, President Obama and the left have waged a vicious, relentless war on the wealthy, individual success, business and the nation’s prosperity. Personal wealth has been endlessly attacked and demonized, and economic growth has been stifled. Mr. Obama and his comrades have used brutal class warfare to radically redistribute wealth in order to achieve what he called “the fundamental transformation of the nation.”
With just one phrase, Mr. Trump counterattacked — and began to reverse Mr. Obama’s socialist advance.
The statement — “I’m really rich” — was clear, true and most importantly, unapologetic. He has never made excuses for or run away from his wealth the way Mitt Romney did during the 2012 campaign.
Instead, Mr. Trump has embraced his fortune with enthusiastic fervor, which conveys a simple message: He made it big, and he wants an America where everyone has the opportunity to make it as big — or bigger.
That means reversing just about everything Mr. Obama has done by cutting taxes and spending, replacing Obamacare with free-market, patient-based alternatives, green-lighting the domestic oil and natural gas revolution, and rolling back regulations on everything from coal production to financial transactions. It also means replacing Mr. Obama’s rhetoric of victimhood and poverty with the free-market reality of opportunity and prosperity.
Given his success, Mr. Trump can talk that talk and walk that walk in ways other candidates could not.
He does, however, face an uphill battle, given how successful the left has been in entrenching class warfare as a tool of “social justice.”
In 2010, Mr. Obama gave a speech in which he said, “I do think that at a certain point, you’ve made enough money. But you know, part of the American way is, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product.”
That you can “keep on making money” which he cannot touch is abhorrent to him. The point is that he never intends to stop confiscating it from you. After all, his ravenous beast of government needs constant feeding.
In 2011, Mr. Obama portrayed “the rich” as lazy Thurston Howell III — types on a perpetual three-hour tour. “I believe,” he said, “that we can’t ask everybody to sacrifice and then tell the wealthiest among us, well, you can just relax and go count your money, and don’t worry about it. We’re not going to ask anything of you.”
He has spoken with disgust about the “rich,” as if the “rich” became rich by sitting around, doing nothing. As if the country “doesn’t ask anything” of the “rich,” when they carry the overwhelming portion of the tax burden.
While hitting “fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” he called paying higher taxes “neighborly.” He invoked the biblical verse about being “our brother’s keeper” — but it’s always been about the government keeping your brother’s wealth, and yours too.
In the past, old-school class warriors would at least fake being “men of the people.” Today’s class warriors don’t even pretend. Mr. Obama slams moustache-twirling “millionaires and billionaires” and then hangs out with them on Martha’s Vineyard.
The new class warriors are made up of two essential groups: those wanting ever-greater government help and those plagued with enough “rich guilt” to want to dole it out. The new class warfare is designed to enforce socialist economic policies that would have zero chance of being adopted without the trumped-up class divisions.
Unlike Mr. Romney, Mr. Trump doesn’t do “rich guilt.”
He does unapologetic rich pride, because he has lived the essential truth: America is an aspirational society.
Built on the notions of merit, ambition, hard work and risk and reward, this country enshrines the promise of achievement regardless of class or status. Attacks on the rich ultimately backfire because most Americans want to be rich. And they know that in America, diligence, creativity, innovation and commitment can pay off in big ways, including amassing incredible wealth.
The goal of the leftists is to kill that dream, because neither they nor their agenda can thrive as long as most Americans believe that maximum economic freedom leads to the most individual success — and that is the best way to “spread the wealth around.”
The “really rich” Mr. Trump is the embodiment of aspirational America. He’s promising to restore it. And that, perhaps more than anything, is why, despite the monolithic opposition he faces, he’s still in the fight.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.