Barbarians at the Gate

The Republican Party has long been led by the rich and the powerful who win elections by persuading the lowly and powerless to vote for them. Ever since the early Roman Republic, when the Plebeians were pitted against the Patricians, the rich politician’s goal has always been to land the poor vote to win.

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They succeeded in the past by drawing racial, sectional and ideological lines among the poor. Now, with Donald Trump’s steady victories, the jig is up. Whatever their former appellation — Reagan Democrats, the silent majority, the Southern strategy — the Joe Six-pack’s and Archie Bunker’s of today are now solidly in Trump’s corner.

They flock to Trump because they feel that a Democrat president would only pay attention to the needs of people of color, single mothers or gays. And they are convinced that the Republicans will be true to their country club roots and ultimately sell them out.

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Republican intellectuals and compassionate Democrats wear a particular strategy up their sleeves: the promise to ameliorate the lives of blue-collar America. But they have failed to do so up until now. The left and the right have merged in their discontent to animate a new phenomenon: Trump.

Is this the crusade of a secular messiah? Or the best and last act of a huckster and con man? We just don’t know.

But we do know a lot about Trump.

He gets things done. No matter the cost, legalities or proprieties, and despite any obstacles, he makes it happen. He is — pardon the pun — a bull in a china shop, goring those who fleece America and curbing those who would pack our electorate to be more congenial to liberalism.

But what happens when Trump’s ego and focus lands on an object that conservatives disapprove of?

How will he sell the deals to balance the budget and handle taxes?

How will freedom of the press weather the storm of a man who feuds with the media and demands looser libel laws?

Will the balance of power tilt even more to the executive branch, making Congress an increasingly ornamental body?

Will he get us into a war if his differences with foreign leaders escalate into personal vendettas? Will Trump become as obsessed with deposing foreign leaders as George W. Bush did with Saddam Hussein and Hillary did with Moammar Gadhafi?

Trump will govern by reign of terror. The establishments of both parties will be shell shocked into compliance with his wishes. Peggy Noonan got it right in her column in The Wall Street Journal: They will pass through the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — and come out willing to be lashed into line by an imperious president.

Those who think that Trump will be faithful to their agendas are in for a shock. Whether they’re partisans of the religious right, free traders or anti-immigration groups, Trump will not be their man. He will be nobody’s man. He will not toe the line of any ideological agenda. His sole imperative will be what it has always been: Get it built and be done.

To grasp who he really is, read Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” about Robert Moses, Commissioner of the New York City Departmment of Parks and Recreation, who ruled transportation, construction, highways, parks and land use with an iron hand for years. That’s Trump: Nothing stands in his way.

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