Trump’s revolving door of administrators and appointees has proven a positive for the president.
One of the most interesting facets of the Donald Trump presidency is the apparent lack of an overarching political strategy. The revolving door of confidants, cabinet members and various important positions in the White House indicates a high level of volatility and lack of a solid ideological foundation. Every couple of weeks, we hear about a new person getting let go, with the total close to a hundred individuals fired from all walks of political employment. From secretaries to the Secretary of State, few individuals can regularly guarantee continued employment in the Trump White House. However, nothing done at this level of politics lacks an internal reason.
Whenever I think about this phenomena, I can never truly isolate a single intensely satisfying, unifying principle behind the constant slash-and-burn strategy. I always tentatively reach the possibility that the revolving door is intentional on the part of the White House, but that way of thinking is antithetical to democratic philosophy.
This little thought experiment starts with the man getting elected to office. How did Trump win his battles? He did not seem to have enough traditional political support from his party, and the Democratic Party was gunning for him from the beginning. Yet, he has managed to stave off their attacks by manipulating the media to glide past otherwise career-ending events – even when they come from his own former political teammates. Some of these politicians, like the infamous Steve Bannon or the critical James Mattis, turn heel and vehemently critique Trump after losing their positions in his government. Although they seem to hate the man, could their fit of post-office courage be a sneaky way of distracting the media?
Trump reminds me of how Richard Nixon used this maniacal, semi-insane schtick to throw Soviet Russian leaders off balance, making the Reds afraid that he might be bonkers enough to actually press the big red button and commit to a thermonuclear war. Perhaps this strange timeline we seem to live in is another application of that strategy, where one can escape political turmoil by making more of it.
The idea has merit. In isolation, a singular smokescreen, a political event manufactured to cover up another issue, would stick out like a sore thumb, but a multitude of overlapping distractions built to rile up the media and remove them from what the administration deems as actively pressing issues is an intelligent political strategy. Of course, this constant media blitz negatively impacts the common man’s view of politics, but when one cannot tell the difference between something insignificant and hugely important, one tends to fall back on what is previously known: something safe, something that preserves a way of life.
The architect behind this grand strategy does not truly matter. It could be Trump himself, Mike Pence, Putin, a fortune cookie — the source is somewhat irrelevant, because any individual that steps forward as the creator of the weirdest timeline would be discounted as one of these Trump turncoats. The beauty of this strategy is that nothing can be trusted, and, in a scenario where nothing can be trusted, the public flocks to the individual that seems to know something more, even if he is the figurehead of the organization creating all of this chaos.
By firing so many individuals and creating a multitude of controversies, Trump is consolidating his power base, unifying the disparate parts of the United States through fear and anxiety. As a budget historian, this phenomena intrigues and excites me, because it could be the pinnacle of Otto von Bismarck’s “Realpolitik,” the idea that politics must be practical, with direct goals allowing the use of underhanded, sometimes unethical tactics. This might be the most aggressive, legal political strategy in American history. Through the use of these tactics, Trump holds all of the power. Turncoats are seen as unreliable, controversies that should end careers are drowned out by the next big thing and the true aims of the Trump administration remain shrouded in mystery.
I certainly disagree with a multitude of stances the Trump presidency takes, and I am not the biggest fan of living in constant anxiety, fearing the appearance of another potentially world-ending controversy coming across my desk. However, even with these intense psychological pressures, I cannot help but admire the potential intelligence that goes into something as complex as this grand, overarching strategy. It just sucks that we live in it.