Would it be worth it for America to elect a president who lacked experience and moral character if he could also promise unusual independence from moneyed elites?
Under Donald Trump, we won’t get an answer.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump told voters that he was self-funding his campaign, in contrast to other politicians who’d be beholden to wealthy interests. “You know a lot of times you see these really dumb deals,” he told Iowa voters in one characteristic pitch. “And you’ll say that’s dumb. It doesn’t make sense. But then when you think, it does make sense because these politicians are representing interests, whether it’s a country or a company, where doing the stupid deals actually makes sense only for that politician and for that company or country.”
Trump’s campaign did not honor the promise implicit in his words—it relied on spending from allied groups, backed by donors who went on to play influential roles in the transition and administration. As USA Today noted, for example, “billionaire Peter Thiel, who is playing a key role in Trump’s transition, donated $1 million in late October to Make America Number 1, a pro-Trump super PAC aligned with New York hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah.”