In hindsight it now seems absurd that someone like Jeb! could ever have been the electoral standard bearer of the GOP establishment. After all the guy turned out to be such a loser that the “Jeb! wins” meme became one of the most brutal and hilarious of the election.
But the truth is Jeb! existed for a reason. He was a politician pre-shaped to fit the slot of President of the United States — a slot that is defined by an interlocking web of corrupt interests called “the Swamp” and the Deep State, and which calls for someone soft, malleable, and well-connected who knows how to play along.
Trump was the opposite of this and the electorate loved him for it. Nobody else could have overturned such a blanket of negative coverage but he did.
However, since his election, all the forces that Jeb! was clearly designed to compliantly align with have been battling against Trump and attempting to re-shape him more and more into the kind of President that Jeb! was supposed to be.
While commentators like Scott Adams and Styxehexenghammer666 see Trump playing complex psychological games to get the deals that he really wants, a more parsimonious explanation of the data suggests that Trump is increasingly becoming “house-broken” and his agenda watered down. Meanwhile the system continues its relentless march forward, getting what it wants — essentially more statist powers, more favours for its corrupt friends, and more green lights for a burgeoning military budget.
Those aides and advisers, like Flynn, Bannon, and Gorka, who set Trump apart from the political mainstream, have been stripped away, their places taken by the functionaries of the system. Trump’s foreign policy, which was originally characterized by “disinvite the World” and “disinvade the World,” is pushed and nudged back ever closer to the default settings of open borders and “a war somewhere.”
A large part of Trump may want to live up to his promise to the voters, but the man’s main weakness is his own image of strength and success. He can’t be seen to fail, and this is where the Deep State and the Swamp can get a hold on him. A true political rebel would take on those evil forces that have become deeply embedded in the political system and either root them out or crash and burn trying.
Either outcome would be positive because even a messy failure would still cast light on the problem and prepare the way for a future conflict. But Trump is not the type to take a bullet so someone else further down the line can reap the benefits. Instead he wants to have the semblance of success — gaudy and golden on the outside, but debt-ridden and mortgaged up to the hilt on the inside.
Over the last few months Trump and the Deep State have been involved in an awkward process of mutual adjustment. The deal will be that they both get what they want, but the Deep State will get more of it.
The Wall will probably be built in some form. Alongside its symbolic value to Trump, it will be a great piece of pork barrel, providing jobs and an economic boost at government expense along its length. But it will effectively be built to keep illegal immigrants in rather than out, as there are unlikely to be mass deportations, while illegals already in America will be reluctant to cross backwards into Mexico.
The question has to be asked, how much would a Jeb! presidency have differed in its essential outlines from what we have now? How different would things really have been? The main difference seems to be that whereas Jeb! was pre-shaped for the presidential slot, Trump has been post-shaped, a process that appears to have taken seven months.