As the president-elect parades his potential picks through Trump tower, humiliating past opponents and reviving dead careers, his cabinet choices are revealing a singular presidential strategy: Dismantle government and any semblance of effective regulation. Or, put simply: Break shit.
It’s important to remember that this is not exactly a curious move by the Trump administration. In fact, it’s standard practice in the Republican party. In 2011, The Nation noticed, writing that the then-current crop of GOP presidential contenders, who were making a big spectacle of their disdain for bureaucracy, was racing to “eliminate government completely.”
In his 2008 book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, Thomas Frank wrote that, in the 1920s, conservatives developed a strategy of “utilizing the regulatory state,” and “a series of Republican presidents filled the boards of the nation’s few regulatory agencies with men distinctly hostile to those agencies’ very purpose.”
The result? Well, not to oversimplify things, but one Great Depression. You know, 25% unemployment, 30% decline in GDP, etc. No biggie.
And Reagan assumed the great conservative mantle. Here’s Frank again:
In his first weeks in office he suspended hundreds of regulations that federal agencies had developed during the Carter years but that had not yet gone into effect. In so doing, Reagan created a precedent that conservatives have observed ever since, tossing out the regulatory work of their more liberal predecessors immediately upon taking charge.
What Trump is doing is simply following precedent.
Brief case studies:
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General pick, was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 for racist remarks and approval of the Ku Klux Klan. Yes, Trump–at a time of increased racial anxiety and police violence–had picked, as his top law enforcement official, a man who once sympathized with the Klan, and has a problem with voting rights.
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, believes voucher programs–that drain public school systems of necessary funding–“advance God’s kingdom.”
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick for the Environmental Protection Agency, is a climate change denier who is currently suing the very agency he’s been chosen to lead.
Rex Tillerson, the man Trump would have be America’s Secretary of State, is the current CEO of ExxonMobile, a multinational corporation that regularly works against American interests abroad. Tillerson himself has close ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, having been personally awarded Russia’s “Order of Friendship,” which Russian media describes as “one of the highest honors a foreigner may be awarded from Russia.” According to the New York Times, Exxon has “billions at stake” in its business relationships with Russia, dependent on the lifting of sanctions that the Obama administration has placed against the nation.
Rick Perry, the just announced pick to lead the Department of Energy, infamously tried to say that the DOE is an agency he’d like to see “gone” in a bumbling 2012 GOP presidential candidate debate.
That’s just five. It doesn’t even count all those Goldman Sachs picks who would love nothing more than to rip up whatever weak financial regulations that have survived since the great recession (remember that?).
Not only are Trump’s picks normal, but they simply reflect the reality of what Conservatives do.