Did Trump Let His Base Down?

US cruise missiles being launched at the Syrian military's Shayrat airbase on April 7, 2017.

Donald Trump’s populism galvanized millions who were cynical and enraged about the current failed state of American politics. He railed against politicians too cowardly to secure America’s border and stop illegal immigration. He called for a radical departure from America’s never-ending, fruitless investment in the world. He intuitively understood that a nation with third world infrastructure should not spend its time bombing and rebuilding war-torn nations. “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism.”

If President Trump’s administration continues on its current trajectory, then his campaign will culminate to nothing more than a bait and switch. Remember Trump’s rightful criticism of NATO allies for not paying their fair share? As president, he praised NATO and called it, “no longer obsolete.” Remember his promise to immediately repeal President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty? He has no interest in such a repeal, citing his “big heart.”

Ending “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” would just require an executive order terminating Obama’s that enacted this policy in the first place. Better yet, he could just make a phone call to the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services and tell them not to accept any more applications for DACA. That has not happened. In fact, 36,000 have applied for and received amnesty since Trump took office.

In fact, any substantive long-term, America first immigration overhaul is unlikely. Trump caved to Speaker Paul Ryan’s insistence that funding for the border wall not be including in the upcoming budget. Building a wall was a central promise of President Trump’s campaign. If construction does not begin soon, he may well end up a one term president. 

Then, there’s Trump’s cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase. By bombing a nation fighting ISIS (but not the US) over alleged use of chemical weapons, President Trump reaffirmed a globalist foreign policy meant to intervene on behalf of human rights. This foreign policy is not “America First.” Indeed, neocons who once despised Trump are now effusive in their praise. People who cheered on ruinous wars in Iraq and Libya such as Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, John McCain and Lindsey Graham eagerly welcomed Trump to the neocon club. The architects of endless war still hold legitimate influence over America’s foreign policy.

For all of Bashar Al Assad’s faults, letting him remain in power is the least reprobate option for US foreign policy in the region. Indeed, any further involvement in the Syrian conflict, be it airstrikes, arming rebel groups, or sending in American troops, will only prolong a war that has led to the deaths of 400,000 people and a Camp of the Saints-like migrant crisis for Western Europe.

Donald Trump instinctively knew all this. In 2013, he tweeted against Obama’s proposed idea of militarily intervening in Syria. He rightfully pointed out that acting in Syria would help Al Qaeda and drain the US in the long term. As late as a week before the strike, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the fate of Assad should be left to the Syrian people.

What happened? Quite simply, the wrong people made a power play to influence Donald Trump. People like Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group moved into Trump’s key inner circle. They are all globalists who are uninterested in ideas of economic nationalism or America first. Scwarzman apparently convinced Trump to preserve DACA while Jared Kushner played a key role in Trump’s Syria 180. Steve Bannon, perhaps the most terrifying intellectual to the globalist establishment, faced demotion from the National Security Council. Trump dismissively described him as “a guy who works for me.”

One must stress that as of this publication Donald Trump has not been president for even 100 days. Much can change. Perhaps, Trump will listen to Middle America, the force that elected him in the first place. Indeed, not every action of Trump’s presidency can be met with scorn. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is proving indispensable to cultivating an America first border regimen. Donald Trump signed an executive order that is a promising start toward addressing a corrupt H1B visa program that has led to laid-off American tech workers training their foreign replacements.

However, these initiatives go no where near far enough toward a meaningful restoration of what remains of America. The other discouraging events of the last few week have overshadowed such meager gains. If Donald Trump, who had the potential to be the most anti-establishment president since Nixon, cannot drain the swamp, perhaps nobody can.