It sometimes seems to me that Trump’s seeming successes are of a piece with his election. That is, they’re not so much a matter of his own vision as they are a photographic negative of the failures of the elite consensus pre-2016.
Trump’s successes remind me of one particularly memorable moment on the sitcom Seinfeld involving Seinfeld’s friend George Costanza. George told his friends, “It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat… It’s all been wrong.”
After some interplay, his friend Jerry Seinfeld says he should do the reverse of his instincts. “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
“Yes!” George appears to have an epiphany. “I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!”
Basically, that appears to me to be Trump’s approach. He won the Presidency by being the opposite of everything elites have been assuming and offering the country for the past several decades. And his administrative policy is more or less to be the opposite of most pieces of conventional wisdom about policy and public opinion and elections for that time, also.
What his administration is, more than anything, is an indictment of the particular virtue of elites and elite values and opinions. I stress “particular” because I do not mean that elites and their values and opinions are worthless. Or worth less. Trump does not demonstrate that. I mean that those values and opinions leave certain valuable things behind, or minimize or backburner them. Over time, those things add up and come to seem disproportionately attractive.
Did the real estate developer in the White House realize that those ideas and values left behind were like great houses left behind in a deteriorating neighborhood, which become more and more of a potential bargain over time as their prices drop? I don’t know. I don’t know what he really believes. For all I know he blundered across it by simply “doing the opposite” like George Costanza, and had cunning enough to sense it. But I do think the past couple years have been very much like the sudden gentrification of an intellectual neighborhood.