Donald Trump: Progressive champion?

Updated

When real-estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency on Tuesday, he did so while voicing the sorts of far-right sentiments seldom seen outside of comment sections: Trump described the majority of Mexican immigrants as drug criminals and rapists, decried ISIS for stealing our oil, and accused the Obama administration of conspiring to cover up the actual unemployment rate, which he estimated at 21%.

Trump has about as much chance of winning the progressive vote as Michael Moore does of winning the next CPAC straw poll. But over the course of his decades-long involvement in American political life, Trump has taken positions on liberal priorities that would put him firmly in the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the Democratic Party.

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The sometime reality TV star has taken these positions at disparate moments in his political career, but if we could merge these different candidates into one ultra-liberal “Franken-Trump”, he could have Bernie Sanders’ guarding his left-flank. Here then, is the policy platform of Donald Trump, progressive champion:

1. Government health care for all

On Tuesday, Trump called Obamacare such a disaster, “You have to get hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor to use it.”

Progressives might object, noting that the “hit by tractor” provision of the Affordable Care Act literally doesn’t exist. But the Democratic base would be more sympathetic to Trump’s health care proposals circa 2000.

Shortly after the Y2K scare, Trump announced his support for socialized medicine, in a campaign booklet titled, “The America We Deserve”.

“We must have universal health care,” Trump wrote. “We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by health care expenses.”

He even cited Canada’s publicly funded health care system as a model worth emulating. 

2.  Legalize all drugs

Let’s take a trip back to 1990: “The Simpsons” was making its broadcast debut, Iraqi troops were crossing the border into Kuwait, and a thick-haired Donald Trump was telling a crowd in South Florida that “We’re losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

It would take decades for Democratic leaders like Bill Clinton to declare the drug war a mistake. Even Bernie Sanders isn’t willing to declare his support for marijuana legalization in 2015. However, Trump circa 1990 was ready to legalize everything.

In calling for the decriminalization of all narcotics, he aligned himself with the anarchist fringe of left-wing America.

3. Tax the wealth of the 1%

Fifteen years before French economist Thomas Piketty outraged conservatives with his proposal for a 2% global wealth tax, Donald Trump called for a 14.25% tax on America’s wealthiest individuals.

In 1999, Trump suggested the government collect $5.7 trillion in new revenue by levying a one-time tax on all individuals and trusts worth more than $10 million. With that revenue, Trump hoped that the federal government could cut taxes on the middle-class, and sure up Social Security funding for retirees.

Sure, Bernie Sanders has called for substantially raising the top marginal rate on income taxes, but only Trump has advocated expropriating the wealth of the capitalist class. And if inequality is your top concern, redistributing wealth is far more effective than redistributing income: According to a 2015 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the richest 10% of American income earners take home 28% of all U.S. income; the wealthiest 10% of U.S. households own 76% of the nation’s wealth.

4. No more foreign wars

Long before the quagmire of Iraq, Donald Trump saw the folly of American military hubris, writing in 2000’s “The America We Deserve,” “If we are going to intervene in a conflict it had better pose a direct threat to our interest- one definition of ‘direct’ being a threat so obvious that most Americans will know where the hot spot is on the globe and will quickly understand why we are getting involved… At the same time, we must not get involved in a long-festering conflict for humanitarian reasons.”

While Sanders may seem like the dove candidate of 2016, he supported the interventions in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, as well as the war in Afghanistan. 

5.  Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership and protect American workers

President Obama’s proposed trade deal is one issue where the 2015 Trump and the progressive base see eye-to-eye. While presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton still hasn’t come out in full-throated opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trump has been a vocal opponent of the deal for several months.

Back in in April, Trump took to Twitter to voice his opposition to the deal, tweeting: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an attack on America’s business. It does not stop Japan’s currency manipulation. This is a bad deal.”

Trump is so committed to protecting American workers from the threat of globalization, his 2011 book “Time to Get Tough” included a proposal to levy a 20% tax on all imported goods. 

While those five policies align Trump with country’s most left-wing voters, he’s also voiced his support for consensus Democratic positions, like a woman’s right to choose and the assault weapons ban.

On the other hand, even while Trump was calling for universal health care in 2000, he was also advocating restrictions on food stamps, ending Social Security, expanding prison sentences, and denying gays and lesbians the right to marry.

Still, progressives could learn a thing or two from some of the positions “the Donald” has taken over the years. And to combat inequality, incarceration, and war, progressives may want their ideal 2016 candidate to be more like Trump.

Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump: Progressive champion?

Updated