Donald Trump Represents Change? In What Universe?

by Ian Reifowitz –


Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and those who support their ticket want you to believe he is the candidate of change while his opponent represents the status quo. We saw this at both the presidential and vice-presidential debates held thus far, and we’ll almost certainly see it again at tonight’s Clinton-Trump town hall event. Ignoring the manifold reasons why he is supremely unqualified and unsuited to handle the presidency, let’s examine this question seriously. Who better represents change: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

We can start with policy. In 2009, Democrats gained the ability to implement their agenda without the need for any Republican votes—good thing, since virtually none were forthcoming—for the first time since the 1970s. Just focusing on the biggest changes: a century after it was first proposed, we achieved universal access to health care as part of a larger package of reforms that has brought coverage to millions.

We implemented a serious set of financial industry reforms that helped unwind decades of deregulation and, thanks in large part to the vision of now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren, created a vigorous new agency to protect consumers from financial industry wrongdoers. We also pushed through a stimulus package that ensured our country would avoid another Great Depression.

That is real change. Hillary Clinton supports that change. She operates from values and principles that strongly resemble those held by President Obama and the other leaders who enacted that change, and she would work to make more changes to push us further along the same path. Progressive changes have brought success—just this week, new data on first-time unemployment claims (the best numbers in four decades) as well as the monthly jobs/wage report shows the job market remains quite strong. These changes have been far more effective in creating a stronger economy that works for everyone than the Republican policies that came before them. And progressives are not done making changes.

The first time unemployment claims I mentioned above

What kind of change would Donald Trump represent? In terms of economic policy, his tax plan looks like the Bush tax cuts on steroids. They would give a multi-million dollar gift to, well, people just like him, while inflating the debt to the point where it would make his jowls look small by comparison.

Whereas the Obama stimulus sought to put money in the hands of those most likely to spend it, i.e. people in the middle and lower rungs of our economy, Trump relies on the same failed trickle-down economics of George W. Bush. Thanks to the changes President Obama implemented, the federal income tax code is now more progressive than at any time since Ronald Reagan first began inflicting trickle-down on us back in 1981. Again, that’s real change.

On health care, Trump’s website proclaims: “On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.” Is that change—or just going backward? He also wants to end Medicaid as we know it by turning it into a block grant. That would mean states could do with it whatever they liked. Given what we’ve seen from the states that have refused the Obamacare Medicaid expansion—despite the federal government picking up almost every dollar of the tab—we’ve got a pretty good idea how that work out for the economically vulnerable in large swaths of our country. It would be a return to the time before Medicaid—in other words, before 1965.

Trump’s other ideas on health care are little more than warmed-over versions of what Republicans have talked about for years, but notably failed to implement when they had a popular, first-term president in the White House, majorities in both houses of Congress, and enough centrist Democratic senators to overcome a filibuster on issues they really cared about, like tax cuts for the rich.

How about financial reform? In May Trump told Reuters that he’d get rid of the Dodd-Frank financial industry reforms and, within two weeks, would have a detailed plan on the issue. In July, Politifact noted that such a plan “has not been released.” The Trump website contains no section on financial reform, has no plan for the financial industry, and contains nothing more specific than broad criticisms of regulations in general. Sen. Warren got it right when she said, of his promise to repeal Dodd-Frank: “Donald Trump has already offered his big wet kiss to Wall Street.”

On Social Security, Trump once called it a “Ponzi scheme” and wrote that he supported the creation of private investment accounts. Now he sings a different tune, but his running mate and his party’s platform at least leave the question open. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, rejects privatization of any kind, and would “expand Social Security for those who need it most and who are treated unfairly today.” She would do so by raising the payroll tax cap. This idea reflects her larger approach to taxes, in that she would make sure those at the top—who have reaped the most benefit from the economy over the last few decades—pay a bit more back in to support their fellow Americans.

Then there are the whole range of social issues. Whether it’s reproductive rights or their approach to race, crime, and policing, just to name two, Hillary Clinton would continue to push for progressive change while Donald Trump would take us back to stop-and-frisk and back alley abortions. The Supreme Court is at stake here, and only Secretary Clinton will appoint a justice that will change it from a conservative-majority court to a progressive one. When it comes to climate change, Trump sounds like J.R. Ewing, while Clinton is actually living in the 21st century. Finally, Trump’s sickening, vulgar language celebrating sexual assault makes the guys on Mad Men seem enlightened. It’s not status quo, or even retro, it’s just criminal.

Change doesn’t just mean something that is different from what we have today. We have to take a longer view. Hillary Clinton’s approach to policy is to continue and enhance the changes begun by Barack Obama. Donald Trump would double down on the worst ideas of George W. Bush and Republicans who came before him.

But now, let’s get beyond policy. Donald Trump represents the past in the most fundamental way. He appeals to the anxieties and prejudices of those who want America to be what it once was: thoroughly dominated by white men. There’s a reason why he is the candidate of the so-called alt-right, people who openly seek the restoration of white supremacy in all its fullness.

Compare that to the photo at the top of this post. Having a President Barack Obama followed by a President Hillary Clinton represents a drastic, even revolutionary change from the 42 presidents (only counting Grover Cleveland once) who preceded them. Add in the fact that Trump inherited his money from his daddy, and now we’re really talking about more of the same when it comes to who wields power.

President Obama’s approval rating stands at a high point for his second term, with a solid majority saying he’s doing a good job. Overall, Americans support the progressive changes he’s implemented. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stand for change, both in terms of who they are and because they reject the failed Republican policies that favor the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. When we go to the polls in November, we must vote to continue that change.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos