For about the thousandth—or is it the millionth?—time, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has attacked Donald Trump.
But this time there’s a twist. The Journal’s latest hit-piece targets Trump’s top advisers, Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, both champions of the populist nationalist policies that propelled Trump to victory.
In their February 27 editorial, the Journal’s editorial board argues that President Trump is acceptable only if he supports the Journal-approved agenda of tax cuts and deregulation, which Trump does. However, Trump’s signature issues of economic nationalism and border security are most definitely not acceptable. The Journal calls these positions “Bannonism”—and that’s not meant as a compliment to Steve.
In reality, the Journal knows that “Bannonism” is really just “Trumpism.” Trump embraced economic nationalism and border security long before he ever met Bannon or Miller, whom he refers to as “my two Steves.” Of course, that’s why the Journal’s editorialists have opposed Trump all along. But now they’re pretending that Trump could be forgiven for his populism, if only he rids himself of his two Steves.
In particular, the Journal inveighs against what it calls “the polarization strategy pressed by Mr. Bannon, his ally Stephen Miller and the Breitbart wing of the White House.” The Journal claims this “polarization strategy” jeopardizes Trump’s agenda of tax cuts and deregulation—which are the only domestic policies the Journal really cares about. (As for foreign policy, the Journal is all neocon, all the time.)
(As an aside, Breitbart News doesn’t think there is a “Breitbart wing of the White House,” fun as that might be; we think it’s all the Trump White House—but at least the Journal spelled our name right.)
So we can see the Journal’s strategy: It wants to strip Trump of his Trumpian signature issues by peeling away his key aides.
The Journal’s siren song is: Stick with tax cuts and deregulation only, Mr. President, and we’ll be nice to you. And, oh yes, get rid of Bannon and, while you’re at it, Miller.
The Journal yearns to turn The Donald into another business-donor-class-type Republican in the mode of, say, Mitt Romney. They want him to be the sort of elite politician who never met a capital-gains tax cut he didn’t like or an earned middle-class entitlement, like Social Security, that he didn’t want to slash.
Obviously, this “help the rich, hurt the middle class” policy mix is terrible politics, as Romney proved. Even so, the Journal’s editorialists truly loved Romney. The “King of Bain” was a Republican after their own heart. They stuck with him all through his doomed presidential campaign in 2012, and have continued to champion him even after his defeat. In 2016, they mostly favored the Romney-esque neocon open-border candidate Marco Rubio. But in the Journal’s view, any anti-Trump candidate was better than the man who ultimately won the GOP nomination.
You see, the Journal’s editorialists have long had a domestic agenda diametrically opposed to Trumpism’s economic nationalism and secured borders. This is, after all, the same Journal editorial page that proposed, back in 1984, a constitutional amendment declaring, “There shall be open borders.” Seriously, that was the proposed draft language! And it meant open borders on both immigration and trade. The Journal clung to that position all through the 80s and 90s; only after 9/11 did it do a rethink—slightly.
These days, the Journal acknowledges that a completely unregulated inflow of people is dangerous, even lethal. And yet, loyal always to its innate libertarianism, the Journal has continued to argue in favor of Teddy Kennedy/John McCain/Lindsey Graham-type “comprehensive immigration reform.” And its support for free trade has never wavered.
We might pause over the issue of free trade, so near and dear to Manhattan-based Journal editorialists—insulated as they are, in that emerald island, from foreign competition. We can start with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump, of course, has denounced many times—each time to the chagrin of the Journal-ists. According to the Economic Policy Institute:
By establishing the principle that U.S. corporations could relocate production elsewhere and sell back into the United States, NAFTA undercut the bargaining power of American workers, which had driven the expansion of the middle class since the end of World War II. The result has been 20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth and political power.
EPI then sorted the economic impact of NAFTA on American workers into three categories: First, it cost American workers 700,000 jobs as production moved to Mexico; second, it strengthened the power of employers to dictate lower wages and benefits to employees. Third, it set the model for all the other trade agreements since, including the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, and, most fatefully, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. As the Washington Post has noted, since PNTR, China’s exports to the US, on an annual basis, have quintupled. Indeed, thanks to the globalist hegemony, today, Americans face threats from no fewer than 20 trade deals in place.
The result has been what we all have seen: falling middle-class wages in the US, even as those with higher incomes have gained. Surveying this damage, Bannon said in November, “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia.”
And yet, the Journal would like Trump to double-down on these disastrous trade policies and continue the sad streak of American politicians who have sacrificed the American worker on the altar of globalism. The shuttered factories littered across the Rust Belt bear witness to this decades-long betrayal.
The Journal’s position shouldn’t surprise us. The paper, owned by uber-globalist Rupert Murdoch, is unabashedly a mouthpiece for what Bannon has called “the Party of Davos”—that global elite, which, superficial differences notwithstanding, is united around core globalist goals. The Party of Davos is, in fact, a uniparty dedicated to drowning patriotism and nationalism in the soup of business-minded one-world-ism. Such a world would be hell for the American middle class, but the Journal thinks it would be heaven.
So this is the true thinking of the Journal’s opinion-mongers as they opine about Trump. These are the political geniuses who say that Trump’s legislative agenda is doomed so long as Bannon is associated with it.
To which we can answer: Poor Trump! He has been declared “doomed” so many times! Not so long ago, he was thought to be doomed never to be taken seriously in politics. And even after he gained momentum, he was doomed to fail in his quest to win the Republican nomination. And then, when he became the GOP candidate, he was doomed to lose against Hillary Clinton. At each moment, of course, the Journal was ready to play “Taps”—or, more precisely, tap dance on his hoped-for political grave.
And yet despite the Journal’s fervent opposition, Trump made his way to the White House. And now, shamelessly, the Journal is offering the 45th President its “sincere” advice.
However, for purely tactical reasons, the Journal might wish for a do-over on that February 27 editorial. After all, this latest Trump-is-doomed screed came just a day before the president’s triumphant speech to Congress—you know, the speech that gained a 78 percent approval rating in a CNN poll. You read that right, a CNN poll. (It must’ve pained CNN’s Anderson Cooper to read that poll on the air, just it must’ve pained the Journal editorialists to hear it.)
And did I mention that the Dow Jones average went up more than 300 points on the day after Trump’s speech? And that it’s up more than 2000 points—or some $3 trillion in total value—since election day? That’s more than 10 percent; which is to say, it’s a true bull market. One might think that the Wall Street Journal would notice that bullish reality and perhaps give Trump, and his advisers, some credit.
Whatever the Journal thinks, the Trump administration must advance its agenda—an agenda of tax cuts, deregulation, and economic nationalism, and border security. No one has a crystal ball foretelling the future, but it’s been proven to be a mistake to bet against Trump.
Actually, there is one thing about the future that we do know: The Journal’s editorial page will continue to be what it’s always been: Never Trump.
To that we might say: Sad.
Follow Rebecca Mansour on Twitter @ramansour