Republicans, Trump, and Examples of Conservatism’s Economic and Political Inconsistencies


Max Skidmore

If an objective observer from outside were looking at America’s political economy for the first time just after the 2020 elections, several astonishing inconsistencies would be immediately apparent. In the presidential election, many supporters of the incumbent – the loser Donald Trump – had first voted for him in 2016 because they believed he was a “good businessman.” Yet under his presidency the economy was failing, his incompetence as a leader was manifest, and conditions under a pandemic literally were lethal, the worst in the world, because he had no idea how to deal with the emergency, nor did it even appear to concern him.

Mr. Trump had, in fact, never demonstrated skill at business; on the contrary, he consistently had failed. Having lost money in businesses, he shifted his attention to television where he appeared on a successful “reality” show, which provided him with a substantial income. In any case, the qualities required to run a business are far different from those needed to guide a government that exists not to profit from, but to benefit, the people.

Apart from Trump, voters often explained their support for Republicans because they believed Republican leadership would bring a strong economy. Yet in administration after administration, the business climate had been better when Democrats were in power, than it was under Republicans. The Republican reputation as better for the economy does not hold up under examination.

Republicans have come to claim that taxes inhibit the economy, and that tax reductions pay for themselves by increasing business activity. President Bill Clinton signed tax increases into law in spite of dire predictions that they would damage the economy, but the economy afterward improved at an astonishing level. His successor, George W. Bush, on the other hand, signed into law huge tax reductions, and what followed was the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. In other words, basic Republican assumptions are wrong. This does not mean that tax policies are good or bad, but that they do not routinely have the effects that Republicans claim for them. A cursory glance at the actual record makes that clear.

Although Republicans long stressed patriotism and love of country, they recently exposed their party’s thirst for power at the expense of America’s fundamental interests. In response to clear revelations of massive foreign interference in American elections, they tend to deny it, or shrug it off as unimportant if it happens under Republicans. At the same time, they generate fantasy scenarios to charge Democrats as “un-American,” and beholden to foreign powers. Many of the Republicans’ prominent office holders supported Donald Trump as he illegally sought to pressure Republican state officials to “find” nonexistent Trump votes and reverse the results of democratic elections, hoping to retain him in power by overturning the will of the voters. 

The most shocking example of “conservative” contradictions took place on the 6th of January 2021, when Congress was scheduled to count the electoral vote totals that the states submitted. Donald Trump, still president despite considerable loss of the election, incited his followers to engage in a coup, to storm and take over the Capitol, keeping him in power despite his clear loss.

They did so in massive numbers, vandalizing the seat of national government, stealing items, and taking “selfies” in some of the most presumably secure places in the House and Senate chambers, and offices of the members. They were cleared out, gently, as many observers noted. This was in sharp contrast to the manner in which authorities dealt with civil-rights protests, when peaceful demonstrators were gassed, beaten, and sometimes killed. Quotations from some Capitol Police expressed astonishment, because  they had anticipated no trouble. Conservatives, they thought, did not engage in violence. Even the most cursory examination reveals that political violence in modern America almost always comes from the right¾from white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and other racist groups¾not the left.

Some authorities deny that the riot was actually a coup, because it was too disorganized. That is nonsense. The attempt was to take over the government. Some of the rioters had even constructed a gallows on the grounds of the Capitol, reportedly having planned to kidnap officeholders, conduct mock trials, and then hold public executions. The fact that they were incompetent and failed does not in any way mean that they had not attempted a government takeover¾which by definition was an attempted coup. All the while, Trump still the sitting president, was reported as having enjoyed the spectacle.

This was sufficiently outrageous that a few of Trump’s previously ardent supporters broke with him, and called for his removal, Nevertheless, his most fervent core of support remained, even though the actions violated what they had professed to be their principles. The fact that they had become supporters of Trump, personally (Heil Trump!), and not supporters of whatever principles they purported to profess, is demonstrated that the Republican National Convention, when it re-nominated Trump in 2020 for a second term, for the first time ever, did not even see fit to produce a party platform, merely expressing fealty to their cult leader.

As with deficits, when Republicans are in power, they create huge shortfalls flowing from, among other things, great tax cuts for the wealthy. Yet when Democrats are in power, Republicans become deficit hawks, masquerade as “fiscally responsible,”  and seek to impose austerity in order to block Democratic programs that would help the people. Witness the fervent Republican opposition to “Obamacare,” and the numerous Republican attempts to sabotage the program and keep it from functioning optimally.  

These are merely a few of the plethora of inconsistencies that would be apparent to our outside observer. Perhaps the most glaring of all, and the most irrational from a policy standpoint (as opposed to that of raw power), is the  conservative Republican reaction to Social Security. That warrants an article of its own.

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