It can be hard, sometimes, to put a thumb on what Trump’s positions are.
In the past week alone, he offered conflicting messages on economic policy and suggested his tax proposal was negotiable.
It’s this last word, “negotiable,” that might explain why Trump could be good for the political process and why he’s able to get away with shifting positions that would earn most traditional politicians a “flip-flopper” label.
“It’s because he’s a businessman,” Martin says. “That’s where the language he uses around the Art of the Deal, like ‘negotiate,’ works for him.
“You can’t have a political system where people will not negotiate or change their minds or give a little here to get a little there,” Martin says. “But in the Republican Party – and to an extant the Democrat party – it’s been anathema to give a little to get a little.”
Yet Trump can change nearly every position he has on a rapid basis without any serious backlash from his supporters.
“The one thing he has never shifted his rhetoric on is, ‘Build that wall,’” Martin says. “As long as he has not wiggled on that, his base of support has allowed him to suggest he’ll bring negotiating back to the political system.”
While Martin says bringing “negotiation” back to government would be a good thing, she cautions that Trump’s business approach to governing is fraught with peril.
“One of the worst analogies that has gained mainstream purchase is that you can run a government like a national business on a budget,” Martin says. “These are different things with different goals. When you run a business, the goal is to make money. If you say the goal of the government is to make money, nobody will agree with that.
“So that’s where it really starts to break down,” Martin adds. “We see all the time people want a business person to fix government, and I see that’s a problem because it never gets us to asking, ‘What is our goal?’”
Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts. She can discuss:
- economic messages in political campaigns
- presidential campaign strategy