Trump Means the End of Liberal Small-Ball Governance

After a week of President Trump, one thing is clear. We are not playing small ball in America anymore.

The whole point of small ball, from basketball to baseball to poker to politics, is that you don’t do big plays and risky things. You aim to win through cunning and deception and your mastery of the rules.

Small ball fits the liberal agenda because Americans really don’t want what liberals are offering. Liberals tell the American people that nothing will really change with ObamaCare, and if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. Same with gay marriage. All that stuff was above Obama’s pay grade until it wasn’t. Everything is done by deception.

Obviously, President Trump doesn’t believe in small ball. He believes in big ball. He believes in in-your-face executive orders. He believes in Steve Bannon calling the New York Times to tell the Carlos Slim kids to put it where the sun don’t shine. He believes in stopping Muslim immigration until we know what is going on -- as of 4:30 p.m. Friday.

And Americans have never seen anything like it.

How did Donald Trump grow a pair like that? Good question. It is another thing that the media and the establishment got wrong.

Remember when they were sneering at him for his bankruptcies, implying that being a bankrupt was low-rent and disqualifying in a national politician?

Of course, the opposite is true. If you have been through a billion-dollar bankruptcy and lived to tell the tale there is nothing in this world left to frighten you. You have learned how to bluff and bluster and plead with suppliers and bankers to keep going one more month. And you’ve learned how to give stakeholders haircuts of various lengths so you can restructure and start again. And you’ve learned to keep your pecker up the whole time, no matter what crisis is blowing in your face today like a hurricane.

Compare this experience with the life of the average elite liberal with a perfect report card with top-notch extracurriculars, who went to an elite college and an elite law school and knows all the right people and holds all the right opinions and has interned in all the right places, and never been face-to-face with the terror of ruin and failure.

Back in the day, the failed haberdasher Harry Truman called them the striped-pants boys.

Here’s where I think we are. For the last several decades the scions of the liberal nobility have been cutting the progressive salami into thinner and thinner slices following the imperatives of their identity politics.

Think about it. After you have built the welfare state with its pensions, healthcare, welfare, and education, and you have written landmark civil-rights acts to rectify racism and sexism, the heavy lifting is done. But you still need to stay in power, still need to hand out free stuff to get the helpless victims to the polls by ringing ever smaller changes on equality for minorities, women and gays.

While you are doing this, election after election, the country is going to the dogs, as in a liberal critique like Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone or a libertarian critique like Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. But the well-born rich kids are afraid get into that stuff, because it would be too risky. So they stick to small ball.

While this political engine has been descending into small ball hell a new generation of men has reinvented business. These men are not small-ball players; they are not interested in small stuff. They want to play big ball and reinvent the world. They are Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Larry Ellison and so on. They are like the poet Lord Byron: mad, bad, and dangerous to know. All of them play big ball, and that means they are playing for high stakes, and might very well end in red ruin, and take a lot of people down with them.

So it was not surprising to see Peter Thiel sitting at the left hand of Trump at his tech get-together. Thiel is the author of From Zero to One. He is the guy that asks job applicants: “tell me something that’s true that almost no-one agrees with you,” asking them: Do you want to play big ball?

Here’s how big ball governing works. Trump invites British Prime Minister Theresa May to the White House, and restarts the Special Relationship in a blaze of publicity. So what do the EU apparatchiks and Mutti Merkels do now? Trump kills investment in north Mexican export factories stone dead, and starts the wall. So now what does Mexico do, as its state-owned small ball Pemex reels from the oil-price collapse?

It’s big ball time, and the world will never be the same.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, Also see his American Manifesto and get his Road to the Middle Class.

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