We’re going to end up with President Joe Biden (or Andrew Cuomo) if Donald Trump doesn’t stop tweeting and start exercising power. He has already imposed travel restrictions and used the Defense Production Act to combat the coronavirus and protect America’s food supply. He should use these powers fully to bring Amazon, Big Tech and subversive governors like Cuomo to heel.
Of course, the Main Stream Media has been shamelessly distorting Trump’s comments. But he enables it, by debating Ivy League pilpul artists at “press conferences.” He walked out of one press conference yesterday ['You should ask China': Donald Trump walks out of press conference after feisty exchange with reporters, ITV News, May 12, 2020] He should not go back. He should switch to a weekly direct address to the American people during the crisis, abolishing the White House Press Corps altogether. (Use the excuse that it’s for “safety,” that’s apparently sacrosanct on the Left right now).
Finally, President Trump has used flawed messaging by focusing on “reopening the economy” rather than building on Americans’ justifiable fear of the virus, anger at China, and desire for security to implement a real immigration moratorium and America First trade policies.
The unfortunate truth: Trump is less the “authoritarian nationalist” of Leftists’ fears/fantasies, and more like just another corporate Republican carrying water for the CEOs and urban elites—who despise him and, not coincidentally, America itself.
There’s truth in the charge that Trump’s messaging about the coronavirus has been confusing, contradictory, and a departure from the direct 2016 Make America Great Again appeal [Trump’s 2016 messaging mojo is failing him now, by Joe Lockhart, CNN, April 20, 2020]. In retrospect, it would have been better for him to predict doom from the outset and cast himself in the role of a protective leader rather than trying to reassure the stock market for the short-term.
But when Trump told Americans the coronavirus would not be a major problem, he was very far from alone. New White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was absolutely right to remind Vox, the New York Times, Washington Post, and others that they were the ones telling Americans the virus was no big deal when President Trump was imposing travel restrictions on China [White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Is Asked Why She Downplayed Coronavirus Treat–And She Tries To Turn The Tables On The Media, by Ted Johnson, Deadline, May 6, 2020].
However, the MSM gets to rewrite the narrative whenever it wants. President Trump has to go through a hostile press. And, increasingly, he also can’t get his message out on social media, as he could in 2015-16, because while he was “monitoring” censorship and bragging about his Facebook ranking, the president’s allies were purged by our Tech Totalitarians.
And President Trump should go far further. He has used the Defense Production Act to force GM to make ventilators (even though it’s turned out that ventilators don’t do much against the virus) and to keep meatpackers open (even though a self-respecting, sovereign country would have shut them down and confiscated their assets for hiring illegals). The Act allows the president to force companies to prioritize orders from the federal government and even to install equipment in private factories [What is the Defense Production Act? by Anshu Siripurapu, Council on Foreign Relations, April 29, 2020].
For example, Trump should use this power against Amazon, which has now become the supplier of last resort for vital goods during the pandemic.
Perhaps because The Washington Post is now Jeff Bezos’s blog, there’s been relatively little coverage or outrage about Amazon’s actions during this crisis, including firing workers who protested about safety conditions [Bye, Amazon, by Tim Bray, April 29, 2020].
Granted, there are the usual complaints about Amazon’s supposed discrimination and exploitation of “people of color,” so the temptation is to roll our eyes. Yet any industry or company that relies on cheap labor is going to exploit “people of color.” If they couldn’t be exploited, they wouldn’t have been imported to begin with.
Amazon’s situation isn’t much different from that of American agriculture, an industry that currently relies on resentful foreign helots and backwards technology. As with those who pick lettuce, Amazon’s workplace environment is arguably unhealthy, with some workers alleging that the company hasn’t done enough to protect them from the coronavirus [Worker at Amazon’s Waukegan fulfillment center dies of COVID-19, by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2020]. Federal oversight, if not management, of Amazon’s supply system is thus legitimate. Such actions would do more to help the president win non-white voters rather than his now obviously outdated boasts about low black unemployment. If Jeff Bezos’s rent boys at the Post want to defend modern-day slave shops, force them to make that case.
And let’s hear nothing from libertarians about Amazon being a “private company”—President Trump correctly notes that Amazon essentially enjoys a massive subsidy from the U.S. taxpayer, because of below-market shipping rates [Trump challenges Amazon to ‘build their own post office’ if the company balks at his idea to charge it up to 5 times more in shipping rates as part of a USPS bailout, by Tyler Sonnemaker, Business Insider, April 24, 2020].
And while he’s at it, Trump could also take the opportunity to force Amazon to adhere to First Amendment standards rather than its current policy of political censorship. (Thus it dropped VDARE.com from its Associates program without explanation, depriving us of an annual revenue that had reached five figures).
President Trump can also turn the tables on governors who are attacking him over coronavirus. Andrew Cuomo has emerged as a political winner (and possibly a new Democratic presidential nominee) because of his response to the issue, even though travel from New York City seeded the entire country with this disease. Worse, New York state health officials told nursing homes to accept coronavirus-infected patients, even though elderly patients are precisely the people who most need protection [Cuomo under fire for response to Covid-19 at nursing homes, by Shannon Young, Politico, May 7, 2020]. Of course, when your kid brother Chris “Fredo” Cuomo works at CNN and can violate quarantine orders, and still come out of it a media hero, it’s not surprising Governor Cuomo can also avoid criticism [Nolte: Chris Cuomo Knew He Had Covid-19, Still Risked Infecting Others By Violating Quarantine, by John Nolte, Breitbart, April 22, 2020].
President Trump has created a panel to look at policies at nursing homes. But instead of “recommendations” the CDC should issue firm guidelines that must be obeyed if states want federal aid, specifically identifying New York as an example of what not to do [Trump Announces Panel To Look At Nursing Home Responses To Coronavirus Outbreak, by Ina Jaffe, NPR, April 30, 2020].
President Trump should also capitalize on Americans’ widespread disgust with China to ensure autarchy over the entire medical supply chain, again turning to the Defense Production Act if necessary [73 percent of U.S. adults say China bears responsibility for American Coronavirus Deaths, by Hannah Bleau, Breitbart, May 9, 2020]. If he’s going to be accused of “blaming” China for the outbreak no matter what he does, he should at least do something to earn the blame and protect American manufacturing [Blame China. Remake economy: Trump pivots to new election message amid pandemic, by Tim Reid and Jarrett Renshaw, Reuters, May 7, 2020].
Obviously, all of the above is pointless unless President Trump’s supposed immigration moratorium is strengthened and enforced, especially now that there’s immense public support for it [Most Americans now support pausing all immigration because coronavirus changed their minds, polls show, by Adrian Carrasquillo, Newsweek, April 22, 2020]. “Contact tracing” and various other complicated schemes make no sense if there’s not at least awareness of who is coming into the country. Instead of a special exception for farm and health care workers, there should be a specific emphasis on excluding foreigners from these jobs.
No Democrat would let this crisis go to waste. But thus far, President Trump has.
Which raises a broader question: Who governs? If President Trump isn’t governing right now, who is? Jeff Bezos? CNN? The CDC? Americans aren’t mad at President Trump because they think he’s doing too much. They are frustrated because they don’t think anyone is in charge.
If President Trump is angry about supposed “conservatives” (a collection of extreme Never Trumpers) launching a “Lincoln Project” ad campaign against him, he can counter by taking some truly Lincolnesque action. Like “The Great Emancipator,” he should assert the power of his office and dare the courts to stop him. If they try, well, he has that portrait of Andrew Jackson for a reason.
If President Trump halts immigration, kneecaps his opponents in corporate America by protecting workers (including non-whites who would normally never vote for him), defends his supporters’ free speech, and protects American lives and industries, he has a path to re-election.
The Left has inadvertently given President Trump a priceless opening by accusing him of not doing enough. He should call their bluff. They’re going to call President Trump an “authoritarian” no matter what he does, even if he continues to do nothing.
If this be “authoritarianism,” President Trump, make the most of it.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him |Tweet him @VDAREJamesK] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc. His latest book is Conservatism Inc.: The Battle for the American Right. Read VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow's Preface here.