Coined by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, the term “Davos Man” was meant to refer to members of the global elite who view themselves as completely international. They have no need for the term “nationality” and feel that governments are merely shadows of time past to be used as facilitators in their global operations. ~ Akash Arasu
The pundit and activist class can’t seem to figure Donald Trump out, but as I have attempted to argue elsewhere, Trump’s politics are not really as inscrutable as all that. Trump is that guy at the barbershop who says “We need to run the US more like a business. What America needs is a CEO, not another President.” Trump just happens to have a lot of money and the credentials to be that CEO himself. The theme that the US is getting out negotiated on the international stage and we should start acting more in our own economic best interests have been there since Trump first became a public figure in the 1980’s. Trump, for example, opposed NAFTA before opposing trade deals was the cool thing to do on the right. The consistency of this message suggests that it is sincere, regardless of whatever one might think about the Trump phenomenon that has erupted since he announced his campaign. This economic nationalist message is the key to understanding Trump’s politics. All the rest is noise.
Due to their confusion about where Trump is coming from, an argument that I have encountered frequently in social media and the conservative blogosphere is the contention that Trump is actually himself just another member of the Establishment. Therefore, his anti-Establishment supporters are misguided and being played. But if Trump is just another member of the Establishment, why does he have the Establishment so panicked? There is more to being a card carrying member of the Establishment than being rich, hobnobbing with stars and giving money to politicians in both parties. People who mistake the trapping of wealth for Establishment status are allowing the details to distract them from the big picture.
In fact, Trump’s economic policies and theoretical framework challenge the Establishment’s basic operating assumptions to the core. The Establishment economic policy is globalist neoliberalism. They want to decrease the importance of national borders and national sovereignty in order to make the world safer for international finance and commerce, hence their support for mass immigration and sovereignty-compromising “free trade” deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Trump’s opposition to “free trade” deals and open borders and unabashed advocacy of economic nationalism directly challenges the Establishment consensus in a way that no other candidate does. All the major candidates in both parties with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders actually take Establishment neoliberal presumptions for granted.
I wince a little when I hear Trump says that America’s leaders are “stupid” and are being out-negotiated by the more clever leaders of Mexico, Japan, China, etc. This is grating and potentially unhelpful. What is really the issue here is not smarts but priorities. The leaders of these other nations negotiate with the economic interests of their own countries in mind, while the US negotiates on the basis of fidelity to some imagined set of international rules of fair play, which just so happen to perpetuate the current system that enriches the global elite at the expense of national integrity. But regardless of Trump’s less than ideal formulation, who else is saying this?
Trump is ultimately a patriot who loves his country and wants to restore it to its former glory, as suggested by his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” Imagine that. But this chauvinistic attitude is contrary to the rootless cosmopolitanism of the global elite. If you’re still struggling with Trump’s place in relation to the Establishment, ask yourself this: “Would Trump fit in at the World Economic Forum?” Trump is not Davos Man described in the introductory quote. He is the antithesis of Davos Man. He is a red-blooded American patriot from Queens, New York who just happens to have a really big bank account. Criticize Trump’s policies and ways if you must, but let’s not have any more of this nonsense that he is just another member of the Establishment. If you don’t see the fallacy of this claim, you don’t get why Trump’s rise represents such a fundamental challenge to the ruling order.