A certain kind of American imagines that Washington, D.C., politicians have the coziest of relationships with Wall Street power brokers and mainstream media elites—that they tend to put the interests of one another before the public interest in part because they enjoy attending posh parties together in exclusive coastal enclaves, perhaps chatting about children with fancy names and passports stamps from many countries.
On the whole, resentful visions of that sort are best abandoned: energy is better spent focusing on the best candidates and policies; that elites gather socially is not among their shortcomings; journalists are typically eager to hold politicians accountable, and socialize in dive bars more often than at fancy parties; and it is unobjectionable, I think, to bestow children with unusual names and travel opportunities.
Still, antagonism toward the milieu that I described helped to elect Donald Trump. And so I wonder what the anti-elite subset of his supporters would say if asked to comment on the full transcript of an interview he gave to The Wall Street Journal—specifically the exchange where Gerard Baker, that newspaper’s editor, briefly paused to greet First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who dropped by to sit in on the interview.
Here is what happened next:
WSJ: If you get the vote—if you get the vote today to go ahead, what will be the next hurdle that you—
Donald Trump: Well, then you have to go and decide on what plan you want, which way you’re going to go. You want to decide on is it repeal or repeal and replace. If it’s repeal and replace, which one do you want to go? Which form of existing conditions? I mean, there’s many things. But once you’re in there, then you can really negotiate. This is actually the heart, though. Once you’re there, you can, you know, Gerard—oh, say hello.
Ivanka Trump: Hi, Gerard. How are you?
Gerard Baker: Oh, hey. How nice to see you. How are you doing?
Ivanka Trump : I heard you were here. I wanted to come by and say hi. How is your Arabella?
Gerard Baker: Oh, very—. She just got back from Costa Rica. She was there for two weeks. And how’s—and how’s yours?
Ivanka Trump: Oh, very good. (Inaudible.)
Gerard Baker: It was nice to see you out in Southampton a couple weeks ago.
Donald Trump: So you do, you have a—is it the same spelling?
Gerard Baker: I have an—exactly the same spelling, Arabella. Yeah.
Donald Trump: How did that happen? I think you named your daughter after—
Ivanka Trump: It’s an English name, but it’s not particularly common, so.
Gerard Baker: It’s not very common, yeah, no. Actually, we were there first.
Ivanka Trump: You’re the first.
Gerard Baker: Mine is—mine is 15. How old is yours?
Ivanka Trump: Oh, OK.
Donald Trump: So he’s—I think you copied.
Ivanka Trump: So I copied that. (Laughter.)
Gerard Baker: Yeah, yeah, no, it’s actually—
Ivanka Trump: And I liked your editorial today, very nice. (Laughs.)
Gerard Baker: Oh, good, good. Well, you see, you know, my colleagues write those, so they’ll be—they’ll be—
Donald Trump: You did a good job.
Ivanka Trump: Yeah, you really did.
Gerard Baker: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Donald Trump: You did a good job. He’s a good—he’s a good boy.
Ivanka Trump: They wrote a very nice editorial, so very good.
Gerard Baker: Thank you.
WSJ: Thank you.
Donald Trump: Thanks, honey. Stay around if you want.
Ivanka Trump: Yeah, yeah.
Donald Trump: So we’ll have the vote today at probably 3:00 or so.
I excerpt this exchange not because Arabella is anything but a lovely name, or because it casts anyone involved in a negative light, but because it is a perfect illustration of how strange it is that the Trumps are perceived by so many as regular Americans who are profoundly alienated from coastal media elites.
In truth, Donald Trump is the sort of man who is on good terms with the editor of a Manhattan newspaper of America’s business elites, in part because his daughter and son-in-law socialize in settings like a party in the Hamptons hosted by a Washington Post heiress and attended by both Steven Spielberg and Kellyanne Conway.
One can believe that the problems plaguing the United States are mostly unrelated to such gatherings, as I do; or that an insular cabal of big business and big media is gathering on the coasts to conspire against regular people, requiring an outsider contemptuous of their deeds to drain the swamp, thereby making America great again. But those who take the latter view, for better or worse, should at least understand that the Trumps are very much a part of the world of elites they claim to abhor—more so, in fact, than many people Trump criticizes for being enemies of the people.
How are some so blind to what has long been right before their eyes?