American Interest

Trump Rediscovers An Old Form of Governance

Ravenel B. Curry III Distinguished Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship

The big news in Trumpland this morning is that the President-elect has arranged to keep nearly 1,000 jobs in Indiana. From the FT, if you haven’t already heard:

The deal would represent an early achievement for Mr Trump who had made preventing the loss of jobs to Mexico a key plank of his election campaign, as well as for vice-president elect Mike Pence, who is the current governor of the midwestern US state.

The company, which is owned by defense contractor United Technologies, tweeted:

Carrier said in February it planned to gradually move the factory’s work from Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico.

Mr Trump tweeted last Thursday he was “working hard, even on Thanksgiving” and “MAKING PROGRESS” on getting Carrier to keep manufacturing jobs in the US.

If President Obama had done more deals like this and Secretary Clinton had appreciated their political salience, Trump would likely be an also-ran. This deal, and others which will no doubt follow, do not solve the problems of American blue-collar workers, and they won’t bring back the glory days of the manufacturing economy. And these deals often involve crony capitalism and various “incentives” that give pause to people who value logical public administration.

But they also transmit an important message: that the people at the top are aware of the problems of the people at the bottom. Occasionally reaching out to do a good deed for somebody "ordinary" and "insignificant" is one of the ways that rulers good and bad down through the millennia of human history have communicated with the people they rule. It’s smart governance, but it’s something that the technocratic progressive mind tends to undervalue—to its detriment.

Many on social media and TV are pooh-poohing the deal. But, from the perspective of Trump's supporters and many other Americans, it was just yesterday that pundits were mocking Trump for promising to force factories to keep jobs here and insisting he'd never be able to pull something like this off. Now that he has, the momentum is on his side and his critics in the media are playing defense. Which is, of course, exactly how Trump and his aides like it.