Why is anyone surprised that Donald Trump gave Rahm Emanuel $50,000?
They may belong to different political parties, but that doesn’t matter, for two reasons. First of all, Trump is a real-estate developer who does business in Chicago, so he wants to stay on the mayor’s good side. Most developers are Republicans. Most big-city mayors are Democrats. That doesn’t stop them from working together.
Second of all, despite their party labels, Trump and Emanuel share the same political outlook. According to Salon.com columnist Michael Lind, most of America’s political elites are Neoliberal globalists. That applies not only to Trump and Emanuel, but to our last three presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Emanuel, of course, worked for two of them.
Neoliberals continue to believe that at home governments should provide basic public goods like infrastructure, healthcare and security by "market-friendly" methods, which in practice means vouchers, tax incentives or government contracts for for-profit corporations. Because trade by definition is supposed to be a force for progress, neoliberals see little role for government in trade beyond promoting trade liberalization, providing a business-friendly infrastructure and educating citizens to equip them to compete in the supposed global labor market of tomorrow (in reality, most Americans now and in the future will work in the nontraded domestic service sector, immune to direct competition with foreign workers).
That’s a pretty good description of Emanuel’s philosophy. As an aide to President Clinton, he worked on the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As mayor-elect, he has sought to curb the power of unions, and has appointed department heads known for pushing privatization of government services.
As Lind notes in another column, Emanuel’s corporate worldview fits with the drift of the Democratic Party, away from the concerns of working class voters. That’s why his poorest showings were in blue-collar wards on the city’s fringes.
The greatest assault on traditional social democracy in the last generation has come from “Third Way” leaders of center-left parties like Tony Blair, and their continental European counterparts. Like the Clinton Democrats, these “modernizing” social democrats embraced free markets with a convert’s zeal, celebrating globalization and deregulating finance, while seeking to privatize or dismantle parts of the older welfare state. The politicians of the Third Way were far more libertarian than the voters in their own parties and their actions helped to make possible the global economic crisis.
Having given up traditional social democratic economics for a watered-down version of libertarian conservatism, the Third Way social democrats in Europe, like the Clinton and Obama Democrats in the U.S., sought to replace the traditional bread-and-butter concerns of working-class voters with idealistic campaigns about multiculturalism, climate change and obesity that appealed to more affluent, college-educated voters.
Emanuel and Trump? They’re not political antagonists. They’re political twins.
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