The Fallacy of 'Trump the Independent'

Posted by Rashed Mian on September 25, 2017  •  4 min read
Rashed Mian
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The bar has been set so low for the 45th President of the United States that the nation basically lets out a collective sigh of relief whenever he goes a day without any bellicose Tweets or refrains from insulting his chief political rival or an American ally.

The curve in which President Donald Trump is graded is so outrageously skewed, in fact, that even when he’s bombing sovereign nations without permission from Congress (as did his predecessors), he receives plaudits for ostensibly acting “presidential.”

It's as if some in the media are struggling to maintain a skeptical eye while also engaging in the age-old practice of false equivalency. This internal tug-of-war has manifested in think pieces about whether Trump has emerged as America’s first independent president. This assertion entered the mainstream consciousness recently, after The New York Times ran an A1 story by Peter Baker titled "Bound to No Party, Trump Upends 150 Years of Two-Party Rule." Remarkably, the story also mentions how pundits were speculating as to whether Trump would eschew the Republican nomination in 2020 for a run as an independent. “En Trump!” perhaps. You know, the same guy who stood outside the White House and posed for a photo with mostly old white men to celebrate the House GOP’s repeal of Obamacare.

The inspiration to write about Trump’s alleged independent streak came after he made a deal with Democrats to kick the debt-ceiling can down the road for another three months, and the agreement/non-agreement he made with the Schumer-Pelosi faction of the party to codify DACA, the Obama-era program allowing immigrants brought here as children to remain in the United States.

Even the suggestion that Trump is full on RINO is belied by his administration’s ultra-conservative views on a host of issues, among these:

  • Banning Muslims
  • Transgender bathroom guidelines in schools
  • Transgender people enlisting in the military
  • Immigration as a whole
  • Religious liberty
  • Police brutality
  • Climate change
  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act
  • Overturning Roe v. Wade
  • Gun control
  • Cutting back student loan programs
  • The wall (surely Mexico will pay for it)
  • Shrinking the size of government
  • Pardoning Joe Arpaio
  • Nominating a climate change-denier to the EPA

You get the point. And Trump’s not alone among Republicans in supporting these policies:

It’s an incredible spectacle, really, to watch the corporate media and their favorite talking heads explore this notion of Trump’s so-called independence. This, only a month after Trump failed to issue a full-throated condemnation of a white nationalist invasion in Charlottesville, Va., which left one counter-protester dead. Still, as Trump saw it, there were good and bad folks on “both sides.” Worse even still, there’s often a period in which people act perplexed when Trump does or says something astonishing, such as equivocating after Charlottesville, despite telling us now for two years he wants to "Make America Great Again."

Trump may be the first president in a while who was registered in both main political parties. (And he actually donated more money to the campaign coffers of Democratic elites than fellow Republicans.) But like the way we sign onto Facebook to view content that reinforces our biases, Trump wakes up each morning to the sounds of Fox & Friends because there’s nothing like getting your ego rubbed to start the day.

Of course, the only thing Trump, Dems, and Republicans can all agree on is the preservation of American hegemony, despite his “America First” pronouncements. He’s far outpacing his predecessor in the art of dropping bombs in the Middle East and North Africa, has empowered his generals to wage war on their own terms, and cavalierly jokes about annihilating entire nations. But he’s not the only president to fall enamored with America’s military industrial complex, and he won’t be the last. Underscoring this lust for war, the U.S. Senate budgeted $700 billion for military spending, far more than Trump even asked for. Only nine senators voted against the measure.

As we continue to assess this president’s political career, let’s not be so distracted by palace intrigue and the frenzied nature of this White House that we become utterly ignorant to Trump's unapologetic right-wing views that serve as the basis for his presidency.

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