Trump Will Drain the Swamp? Not a Chance

Edward Isaac-Dovere was floored by how nonchalant President Barack Obama was about Donald Trump succeeding him during his first post-election press conference, writing “After a year of warning that Trump was uniquely unqualified for office, temperamentally unfit for the job, a challenge to democracy, a man who shouldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes, and who should not, could not and must not win, Obama spent an hour standing in front of the White House seal acting like he didn’t mean any of it, and the president-elect didn’t mean any of what he said, and not much is going to change on Jan. 20 or anytime after.” Although Dovere doesn’t pursue this glaring possibility that neither Obama nor Trump were sincere in their campaign trail rhetoric, it’s what best explains why Obama is so calm and composed over Trump’s victory.

It must have been clear to Obama that Trump was trying to throw the election and had another objective in mind instead of the White House and so should Trump unexpectedly win it wouldn’t be a big deal. After his inauguration he would drop his intentionally-repellent candidate persona like a hot potato and do a complete 180 on the provocative elements of his platform. Indeed, the Great Trump Walk back has already begun. But the billionaire businessman was always going to flip-flop on his populist promises since they were never in line with his actual views on globalization. But even if Trump did subscribe to those positions, he would be compelled to ditch them by the deep state and capitalist class, as section B.2.3 of the Anarchist FAQ—which discusses the three barriers to direct democracy—explains to us:

That is the first barrier, the direct and indirect impact of wealth [i.e. the wealth needed to finance political campaigns]. This, in itself, is a powerful barrier to deter democracy and, as a consequence, it is usually sufficient in itself. Yet sometimes people see through the media distortions and vote for reformist, even radical, candidates. As we discuss in section J.2.6, anarchists argue that the net effect of running for office is a general de-radicalising of the party involved. Revolutionary parties become reformist, reformist parties end up maintaining capitalism and introducing polities the opposite of which they had promised. So while it is unlikely that a radical party could get elected and remain radical in the process, it is possible. If such a party did get into office, the remaining two barriers kicks in: the bureaucracy barrier and the capital barrier. The existence of a state bureaucracy is a key feature in ensuring that the state remains the ruling class’s “policeman” and will be discussed in greater detail in section J.2.2. Suffice to say, the politicians who are elected to office are at a disadvantage as regards the state bureaucracy. The latter is a permanent concentration of power while the former come and go. Consequently, they are in a position to tame any rebel government by means of bureaucratic inertia, distorting and hiding necessary information and pushing its own agenda onto the politicians who are in theory their bosses but in reality dependent on the bureaucracy. And, needless to say, if all else fails the state bureaucracy can play its final hand: the military coup…The capital barrier is obviously related to the wealth barrier insofar as it relates to the power that great wealth produces. However, it is different in how it is applied. The wealth barrier restricts who gets into office, the capital barrier controls whoever does so. The capital barrier, in other words, are the economic forces that can be brought to bear on any government which is acting in ways disliked of by the capitalist class…The mechanism is simple enough. The ability of capital to disinvest (capital flight) and otherwise adversely impact the economy is a powerful weapon to keep the state as its servant. The companies and the elite can invest at home or abroad, speculate in currency markets and so forth. If a significant number of investors or corporations lose confidence in a government they will simply stop investing at home and move their funds abroad. At home, the general population feel the results as demand drops, layoffs increase and recession kicks in. As Noam Chomsky notes: “In capitalist democracy, the interests that must be satisfied are those of capitalists; otherwise, there is no investment, no production, no work, no resources to be devoted, however marginally, to the needs of the general population.” [Turning the Tide, p. 233] This ensures the elite control of government as government policies which private power finds unwelcome will quickly be reversed. The power which “business confidence” has over the political system ensures that democracy is subservient to big business.

The wealth barrier did not apply to Trump—and he proved that a presidential candidate does not need a plenteous war chest to win if one is popular enough–but the other two certainly will. This is one stark reality that has already dawned on Trump and accounts for why he has–according to Newt Gingrich–disclaimed his campaign talk of “draining the swamp” that is the Washington establishment. Furthermore, Corey Lewandowski said purging the government of lobbyists and corruption was at the bottom of Trump’s priorities. If this is accurate—and I believe it very much is, no matter what Trump tweets–this means Trump is aware of the two barriers (and he either knew about them going into the election or was recently brought up to speed about who really runs the show in our nation’s capital). So, having experienced firsthand the presidency’s limitations, Obama isn’t faking being unfazed by a Trump term.

He isn’t, as Dovere maintains, “obviously” donning a mask “to avoid sparking the panic in the country and the economy that would likely come if the sitting president actively resisted the president-elect” but because Trump will indeed hardly change a thing. After all, as Rich Lowry notes, Trump “has assembled a Cabinet that by and large could have been put together by Ted Cruz, or for that matter, Mitt Romney.” He’ll promote and try to push through Congress a couple things here and there that one wouldn’t normally find within a conventional Republican agenda but that’s all. Trump is destined to disappoint and hopefully the millions of voters who were excited by the populist message he used to get elected will absorb the lesson that “draining the swamp”—i.e. creating radical change—can never be achieved through the ballot box or the state