Trump's Populism Is About To Crash Into Reality

With Trump now actually on track to become the 45th president, he's going to actually have to, y'know, govern the country. One of the first jobs of any president is appointing a cabinet, and rumors have already started about who Trump's potential cabinet picks would be. And if things continue the way they're going, it looks like Trump's populist claims as a candidate could be broken by the reality of a Trump administration.

Trump's top pick for Treasury Secretary, as reported by Politico, could be Steve Mnuchin, who was the national finance chair of his campaign. Mnuchin made millions at Goldman Sachs, and then went on to run the investment firm OneWest, which was heavily involved in foreclosures during the financial crisis — and was taken to court over bad practices that preyed on homeowners during the housing collapse. In 2011, protesters held signs outside Mnuchin's Los Angeles mansion saying, "Stop taking our homes."

After Trump's avowedly anti-establishment campaign, in which he claimed to fight for those who have been left behind by those in charge, in which he repeatedly attacked Hillary Clinton over her speeches at financial firms, in which his supporters shouted "Goldman Sachs" amid boos at Heidi Cruz during the Republican National Convention, Trump may very well be on pace to appoint a millionaire veteran of that very bank. I can imagine a certain senator, already well-known for her righteous anger and being a top Clinton surrogate, who might make some hay over this appointment.

It's part of a broader issue Trump will face as he transfers from running against the system to running the system. Already, there is what the New York Times described as a "bonanza for Washington lobbyists," as those trying to influence the government for corporate clients are trying to get their say in a Trump administration. And many of those people, along with many of Trump's other potential cabinet picks, are exactly the kind of "establishment" Washington players Trump railed against with his promise to "drain the swamp."

Even more potentially damaging to Trump's populist brand is the actual agenda he seems to be heading towards along with the Republican Congress. Trump won the presidency with support from working class whites. But most of Trump's agenda still mirrors the Republican Party's, with massive tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts to the social safety net, financial deregulation that removes reforms made after the 2008 crisis, and removal of health insurance from many of the over 20 million people covered by the Affordable Care Act.

Trump won largely by speaking to those who felt left behind by Washington, who feel that the current system caters too much to special interests and not to everyday Americans. But now that he's in Washington, it looks like he's ready to be another member of the elite leaving them behind.