Many of us have focused on how Trump’s galumphing vandalism of our political culture threatens the foundations of our democracy. But what about our prosperity?
Like many others who rose from humble origins to the professional class, I enrolled in the GOP believing my interests were largely aligned with the party of business. My fellow Republicans appeared to share my beliefs that trade was the engine of wealth, that trade wars were always ruinous, that free flow of capital and labor was the bedrock of the market economy, that economic growth required stable monetary policy executed by an independent Federal Reserve, and that markets – and not the “orders” of politicians – should guide the choices made by business. I eventually left the GOP, both because of its embrace of the odious culture-war agenda of “movement conservatives” and because, with maturity, the public good, and not my own economic interests, became the main touchstone of my politics.
This morning I tried to imagine what would have happened, at any other point during the past six decades of my life, if a U.S. President, all on the same day, had “hereby ordered” every U.S. business to disengage from a key part of its overseas supply-chain and market, declared the Chair of the Federal Reserve to be a national “enemy,” and escalated a ruinous trade war with our country’s single largest trading partner. The GOP I knew would have swung into full crisis mode, sensing an unprecedented threat to the economy. The President would have been accused of acting illegally, trampling the private property and contract rights of business in a way that smacked of socialist autocracy, as well as ignoring the inviolable lessons of economic history.
Instead, what we hear from the GOP is silence. So has it really come to this? Is the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the GOP so definitive that none of its leaders can rise to defend free markets, free trade, private property, and rule of law? Republicans have demonstrated they will do anything to obtain and maintain power. But what for, if not this?
My former party, having become nothing more than the vehicle for a populist demagogue, offers only the self-styled “Chosen One,” whose narcissistic whims and impulses are well on the way to undermining the laws, practices, institutions, and policies that are the foundations of our prosperity.