Trump’s Cabinet of Peers
When Trump first started naming his cabinet picks, there was a lot of noise from both sides complaining about some of his choices. The liberal mainstream media, who clearly don’t like Trump, were obviously trying to cause dissension in the ranks of Trump supporters by declaring certain of his nominees a betrayal of his campaign promises and his base (Puzder, Mnuchin, Priebus). This was transparently disingenuous. Do they really expect me to believe that they wouldn’t be perfectly happy for Trump to betray his base? Simultaneously, and contradictorily, they attempted to outrage Trump’s enemies by declaring others of his picks as outside the pale (Bannon, Tillerson) and confirmation of their worst fears about Trump. So which was I supposed to believe, that Trump is actually a phony and a tool of the Establishment or that he is a rogue actor who is appointing fellow rogues in an all-out effort to subvert all that is good and true? It really can’t be both.
At the same time some Trump supporters and conservative Trump critics were quick to voice their displeasure at some of Trump’s picks, especially Labor Secretary select Andrew Puzder who has supported liberal immigration policies in the past, Treasury Secretary select Steven Mnuchin who was formerly in the employ of the hated Goldman Sachs and Chief of Staff select Reince Priebus of the distrusted RNC. While I wasn’t pleased with the selection of Puzder and Munchin and, as a non-interventionist, was certainly not crazy about some of his defense and foreign policy related picks and potential picks (especially John Bolton and Mitt Romney), I counseled my fellow Trump supporters to hold their fire a bit because I believed that some Trump supporters were taking the bait of the liberal media who were deliberately trying to sow discord.
The potentially mixed message sent by the totality of Trump’s picks reinforces a point I have made before. I genuinely believe that Trump’s economic nationalist message is sincere and deeply felt because it has been part of his public proclamations since the 80’s, but Trump is not an ideologue. He is not a man particularly concerned with political process. He is concerned with results. The totality of Trump’s nominees so far suggest that he is selecting for competence and people he views as peers not just outsiders who might be more congruent with his campaign theme. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if all the particular sensibilities of different subsets of both his supporters and critics on the right are lost on Trump who is not a man who has historically immersed himself in the American conservative milieu like most national Republican politicians have. I don’t think these sensibilities are lost on Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller or others who have Trump’s ear, however, which is reassuring.
Soon after Trump announced, I compared him to Ross Perot who claimed he wanted to run America more like a business. While this sentiment alarms libertarians and free-market and process oriented conservatives, it’s actually a sentiment that plays well with a lot of less ideological voters who just want someone to get things done. This "run the country like a business" theme seemed to become less prominent as the campaign progressed and the left tried to turn it into exclusively a campaign against wrongthink, but I think it is reflected in Trump’s nominees so far.
While I’m not happy with all the nominees, when taken as a whole I am not discouraged. Trump appears to have selected a cabinet that is high on competence and low on flunkiness (is that a word?) with an eye more toward getting things accomplished and less toward sending a message and jousting at windmills. In fact, if anything I worry that the cabinet may have too much alpha. Trump, a few generals and a couple of CEOs all sitting around a table is going to be a lot of testosterone.
The direction Trump has taken with his nominees should really not surprise us. He has always been more of a businessman, regardless of what some may think of his business prowess, than a messenger, and more focused on outcome than the niceties of process. Trump has assembled an impressive (ideology aside) cabinet of relative peers, and I’m bye and large willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and a chance to succeed before I start voicing a lot of dissent. Given how Trump has outperformed expectation the whole way, I think we owe him this much. I hope my fellow Trump supporters will do the same. We can hold Trump’s feet to the fire without playing into the culture of discontent that our enemies in the liberal media would like us to fall into.