2022: Trump’s year?

A year on from the Capitol riot which celebrated Joe Biden’s victory in the US electoral college, a lot has changed.

Then again, perhaps not so much.

So if you are keen to understand why half of America doesn’t fully share the orthodox media position you might ponder the concept of “sophisticated state failure” in the words of Holman W. Jenkins Jr writing in the Wall Street Journal.

This is, according to Jenkins:

“the inability of advanced societies to reconcile means and ends, when every attempt to appease powerful and diverse interest groups and voting blocs seems to result only in a succession of boondoggles and economic crises.”

You can make an argument that those centre-right politicians who have been successful in recent years – Key, Morrison, Boris and Trump – did so because they were able to some degree to capture the support of those who felt the edge of sophisticated state failure – for example, Thatcherites who loathe the whole process; left-behinds who intuit they are not powerful enough to get their share; pedants who can’t understand why the rhetoric and practice of immigration policy differ; working stiffs who figure that they pay too much and it’s lousy value for money.  

But Trump was always the one who put the most distance between himself and the establishment (even with the assistance of an opponent, Hilary Clinton, who personified it to the nth degree).

Is this still a good political strategy?

Perhaps it always has been. Distinguished medieval scholar Dick Southern, writing in Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, observed:

“Human government   … combined two of the chief features of the transitoriness of worldly things: violence and impotence … Men had no confidence in mere policy or in the human machinery of government; and rightly so, for policy was nearly always frustrated and the contrivances of government were seldom effective”

This might sound depressingly familiar to students of the Biden administration.

The President’s $1.75 trillion spending proposal is increasingly seen (at least by key senator Joe Machin) as a massive handout to special interests; covid policy veers between forcible and impotent; climate policy clashes with the reality of high energy prices; and Biden has been snookered into asking rascally Vladimir Putin what he wants not to invade Ukraine.

His Democrats do seem to be at risk of running afoul of state failure – of both the sophisticated and unsophisticated varieties.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans have been doing well in state-level elections and even sympathetic observers are fretting about the Democrats’ chances in mid-term elections at the end of the year.

And yet and yet – as 2016 showed, it’s one thing to win an election on the back of sophisticated state failure, and another thing to impose a new and successful model of governance (as say Ronald Reagan did in 1980).

Even were Trump tempted, neo-liberalism (as it is inelegantly termed) alone will probably not cut it, but it is an essential part of the answer.

Harvard professor Michael Sandel misses an important point when he attributes much of the current populism to:

“The experts who most discredited expertise in recent decades were those economists who urged and promoted the version of finance-driven globalization — including deregulation, the free flow of capital, and free trade agreements — that resulted in the outsourcing of jobs, rising inequality, and the financial crisis of 2008.”

Because even if true, rising prosperity is generated by modest and carefully-targeted regulation, freely moving capital and free exchange.  Restraint of trade – even where socially necessary – comes at a price.  It’s what you might term a “sophisticated state failure”.

Having tried Biden and his Democrats, the public mood – divided though it is – may be swinging to the view that Trump & Co. are better placed to balance these conflicting pressures.

He has some advantages. His first term regulatory agenda suggests he is more in tune with the needs of a high-productivity economy; he is less in thrall to expensive climate commitments and the rest of the Democratic coalition of interest groups; more able to shrug off pressure for Covid coercion and compensation; and more willing to refocus cash and respect on his people who see themselves as harmed by state failure.

The state failure which – in Sandel’s words:

“sent a message to working-class people that their lot in life … was their own fault, leading to resentment and a backlash against those at the top.”

Which suggests Trump may get another chance – and may want to take it.

One thought on “2022: Trump’s year?

  1. Hate to contradict your article. I usually love the P of Order posts.

    A year on from the Capitol riot which celebrated Joe Biden’s victory in the US electoral college

    The riot celebrated Joe Bidens victory.????
    I think not.
    Actually the reverse.


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