President Donald Trump isn’t known for ideological consistency but his demand of credit for a second multibilllion-dollar bailout of US farmers creates a new level of discord with his attacks on socialism.
On Thursday, the Trump administration released details of a new raft of handouts to US farmers caught in the middle of the President’s trade standoff with China.
This is not to criticize the farmers, whose livelihoods are tied to international trade, which Trump has threatened by starting a trade war with China.
It is to point out that days earlier, when Trump claimed credit in a tweet for helping out the farmers, he was seeking praise for an effort to duct-tape a problem that he very much created.
“Farmers are starting to do great again, after 15 years of a downward spiral. The 16 Billion Dollar China ‘replacement’ money didn’t exactly hurt!”
Set aside that the farmers’ predicament has been singly created by his nationalist trade policy or that this is the second such relief effort he’s had to greenlight (an earlier program totaled $12 billion in payments to farmers).
It is even harder to square his government props for farmers with the demonizing of socialism he has pursued as a campaign tactic, poking at a festering divide in the Democratic Party.
A few days before he was seeking praise for bailing out the farmers, Trump was attacking four lawmakers, all minority women, when he pledged again on Twitter that the US would never be a socialist country.
“We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our Country … ,” he tweeted.
Certainly, helping farmers is not the first step to socialism. But it is definitely an example of the government doing more to help its citizens, which is the general idea behind a lot of the more socialist tendencies the President has attacked.
Trump isn’t nearly as interested in ideology as he is in politics, though.
He warns about government takeovers of industry while complaining that his government can’t do more to influence interest rates. That power is in the hand of the independent Federal Reserve, although he nominates its Board of Governors.
He has attacked individual companies as unpatriotic but has gloated about the success of the stock market, which is concerned only with a company’s bottom line.
He wants to protect Medicare while opposing the idea of “Medicare for All.”
We’ve written about this before, but behind each of these contradictions is his effort to appeal to a certain element of his base. He demonizes socialism and focuses on more progressive Democrats as villains in order to paint the entire party as extreme.
Meanwhile, he wants credit for those farm subsidies because his reelection strategy relies on rural states showing up for him.
Medicare, as he knows, is the third rail of US politics and older Americans, its beneficiaries, vote.
He’d love to lower interest rates to juice the stock market and sell the story of a strong economy even more.
There is certainly a line between Trump’s nationalism and the socialism he warns against, but it is not as hard as he’d like you to think.