Donald Trump won the presidency by railing against the system: He railed against the political system, he railed against the financial system, and he railed against the media system. He promised to "drain the swamp" in Washington if he won the election, and now that he's won, well, how's that draining going, Donny? Looks like you've got a handful of Goldman Sachs veterans, several long-time Washington fixtures, and enough one-percenters to sink a gold-plated ship. Surely Trump's cabinet will anger his populist, working-man base, right? I wouldn't hold your breath: Trump is so non-stick, he makes Ronald Reagan, the Teflon president, look like Velcro.
Trump's "drain the swamp" refrain made its appearance late in the 2016 campaign, showing up only at the end of October, but for the last few weeks before Election Day, it seemed to be all we ever heard about. And yet, with Trump's first cabinet announcement — that of Sen. Jeff Sessions, a nearly two-decade veteran of the Senate — we knew that the swamp-draining would be Trumpian in nature — that is, all talk and little substance.
The president-elect's subsequent appointments followed a similar pattern: Goldman Sachs veterans (including their exiting CEO), wealthy investment bankers (one of whom got rich of house foreclosures during the recession), and a couple of doctors — one of whom is a six-time Congressman, the other who believes the pyramids were used for grain storage. (Oh, and a couple generals, even though Trump knows more than they do.)
Many have stared agog at each new cabinet announcement as they've gotten more and more, well, swampy. The cherry on top seemed to come on Tuesday with Trump's pick for Secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. All in all, Trump's 17 cabinet-level picks have an aggregated wealth that is greater than a third of all Americans combined, according to Quartz.
Still, the anticipated anger from Trump supporters does not seem to be forthcoming. While a heartbreaking story circulated last week from the Associated Press about a Trump supporter who lost her home to Trump's pick for treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, saying, "I just wish that I had not voted," such "Trumpgrets" don't appear to be widespread. While Trump's approval numbers for his transition are lower than his predecessors, still a full 48 percent of Americans approve of the job he's doing.
One theory that attempts to explain this is that many Trump supporters don't see his one-percent cabinet as a renege on his drain-the-swamp promise. They see people like Tillerson, Mnuchin, and Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder as business-minded political outsiders. They see politicians like Tom Pierce, Scott Pruitt, and Rick Perry as budget-cutting heroes.
No, I don’t imagine Donald Trump is going to pay any political price among his base until services that people depend on — like Medicare and Medicaid — start drying up, and they feel the pinch in their daily lives. And even then, Trump, the master deal-maker, may be able to distract them long enough to get away with it.