Ideology versus interests.
There is a constant battle between the two.
American democracy works best when its politicians represent sectional interests as opposed to ideological desires.
You can make compromises when it comes to interests. It’s harder to make ideological compromises.
Donald Trump is an interesting political figure because he is almost completely nonideological. He gave money to Hillary Clinton because it made sense to his business interests.
When he is on the stump, Trump argues that he will protect the interests of the American people better than Jeb Bush or Barack Obama. He will be a better negotiator. He will get the Mexicans to build a wall between our countries and then pay for it. He will "Make America Great Again."
Conservatives are attacking him for not being conservative enough. Trump is not an ideological conservative by any stretch of the imagination. But you can imagine him to be pretty good at protecting his own business interests.
Conservatives pray at the altar of the free market. Trump likes the free market fine, as long as it works to his own interests. When it doesn’t, he is more than willing to cut some deals with the political elite to get his way.
You can’t be a successful real estate mogul in a place like New York City and not have an appreciation for the political game.
Ideology is nice and pure. Business doesn’t have time for purity.
Many conservatives used to have a deep faith in free trade. That faith has been shaken by world-wide competition that has driven down prices and wages and exported jobs overseas.
Businessmen don’t pray to the Free Trade Gods. They use every trick in the book to protect their businesses. Sometimes they export their own labor costs overseas and sometimes they petition the government to stop dumping from overseas competitors.
Anybody who has been involved in the nitty-gritty of passing trade agreements understands that there is nothing pure about the process. It’s making sausage.
Ideology often masks sectional interests.
One man’s example of crony capitalism is another man’s livelihood. It’s hilarious to watch oil interests attack the wind industry and ethanol for its tax breaks. in case you weren’t paying attention, the oil and gas industry has its own massive tax breaks.
Slavery was a sectional interest of the South. Southerners saw free labor as a way to maintain their cultural traditions. Some Northern abolitionists saw slavery as a reprehensible vestige of past barbarism in conflict with modern Christian humanism. Other Northerners saw an unfair advantage for Southern businesses.
Ending slavery was both an ideological fight and an economic fight.
Most wars that are fought have a bigger ideological (or nationalist) component than an economic component.
Wars are usually bad for business (unless of course, you are in the defense industry).
The greatest clash of the latter half of the 20th century was primarily a clash of ideologies, that between communism and capitalism. Capitalism won because you could be a good capitalist and still protect your business interests. Communism lost because at the end of the day, the Communists only had their ideology to fall back on.
Ideology is only worth it if it makes the lives of the average person better. Ideology that screws the little guy, that creates a vast gulf between the rich and the poor, and that doesn’t ultimately make society better is not worth it.
Donald Trump is polling well among women, conservatives, moderates, Tea Party Republicans and a lot of normal Americans because he doesn’t pretend to be an ideologue. He’s just a businessman who can protect the interests of the American people.
That’s proving to be more attractive to the voters than I originally anticipated.
John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at http://www.thefeeherytheory.com/.