Obama tried to turn the tables on Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend but in doing so he may have just added fuel to the fire: as this Bloomberg report makes clear, Trump is getting attention. And Obama may not really grasp what is at stake.
If he wants to know how Trump could be a serious problem for him in 2012 he should look across the Atlantic. There he will see figures not all that different from Trump now running countries like Italy and France.
Why are Sarkozy and Berlusconi so popular and powerful? Because they respond concretely, if in a reactionary and destructive manner, to the real economic problems of large segments of the European population.
Trump, too, has been making loud noises about economic problems that indicate he may put together a serious economic nationalist based program that appeals to large segments of the American working class.
When Obama uses mean spirited personal attacks on Trump to an inside the beltway audience he only reconfirms that he is really about the elite who have benefitted from the globalization agenda of “progressive liberals” of the last twenty years.
Of course those beneficiaries include Mitt Romney who ran a leveraged buyout fund for many years. That makes it hard for the Republicans to fashion a message other than budget cutting and austerity to appeal to the working class.
Trump on the other hand seems prepared to take on the opportunity. Instead of “leading from behind” like Obama he wants to take on those Chinese “motherf___’s.” That is the kind of rhetoric that got Sarkozy and Berlusconi to power in Europe and now they are driving a good chunk of what is happening in North Africa while Obama seems to want to retreat.
Is a confrontational economic nationalist argument the right way forward for American workers? No, but this is about what will work for the 2012 presidency and until a genuine labor movement emerges again in this country don’t be surprised if workers sense that Trump the real estate mogul is closer to their hearts than Obama the politically correct Washington insider.
Father Coughlin, anyone?