Donald Trump hasn't made 'U-turns', he's just consistent in one thing – looking after himself

Like the astute businessman that he is, he found a niche in the market and he filled it. Now he’s in the Oval Office he doesn’t need white supremacists 

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“Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?” Donald Trump tweeted in June 2014 from his now globally infamous Twitter account, a question which many have no doubt been pondering since he emerged from a bruising contest as America’s President-elect. The problem, of course, is that one man’s grossly incompetent president is often another man’s game-changing hero: the reactions to Barack Obama have proven that.

At what point does someone in our “post-truth world” become universally accepted as incompetent, rather than “targeted by an establishment conspiracy” or “enacting necessary political compromises” or “partaking in locker room banter” or heading up a strategy aimed at “draining the swamp”? Is it when he makes massive U-turns on promises which won him the election? Is it when he gives people he formerly insulted and demeaned senior positions in his cabinet? Is it when he suddenly backs the electoral college system he once called an assault on democracy since it helped him get into power even when he lost the popular vote by more than two million?

Even before Trump won, in the time when I still had optimism for humanity, I comforted myself with the knowledge that if he got into government he wouldn’t actually be that bad. Neutered by the system, cowed by the responsibility and still incredulous that his big gamble paid off, I predicted that his populist promises would slowly be rescinded one by one. He’d realise pretty quickly after his first phone call with the Mexican president that you can’t just build a wall at your country’s border and make the other country pay for it.

He’d face plunging ratings and knock-on effects on his businesses if he tried to do what his running mate Mike Pence wanted and “consign Roe v Wade to the ash heap of history”. He’d face unimpressed faces at the United Nations if he turned up after opening a register for Muslims. And as he slowly dropped each ridiculous, hyperbolic, xenophobic promise, his most passionate supporters would become his most enraged detractors.

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This week seems to have borne those predictions out. In an interview with the New York Times, Trump dropped threats to insist on a new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, despite having regularly encouraged fans to chant “Lock her up” at his campaign rallies. Even Trump knows that starting off your presidency surrounded by reports that you might jail your political opponent and construct a build-your-own oligarchy with your friends and family shunted into high-up governmental positions wouldn’t look great on the international stage. He saw how well that strategy went down when the press reacted to him taking his daughter Ivanka along to his diplomatic meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump has also spent his time since election disavowing the “alt-right” groups who so vocally supported him during his campaign. After a journalist inside an alt-right conference in Washington, DC filmed neo-Nazi rhetoric and Nazi salutes being made while the attendees celebrated Trump’s victory, he publicly stated that he “disavowed and condemned” them.

Already there were whisperings about keeping Obamacare in place after his meeting with Obama (who he “liked a lot” despite previously calling him “the founder of Isis”.) His “first 100 days” plan was released without any mention of the Mexican wall, or of restricting immigration from majority Muslim countries. In fact, it didn’t mention immigration at all.

Many have painted these developments as a succession of U-turns, proof that Trump is stepping away from his own ideology because he has realised how little he can actually implement. But the truth is that The Donald never really cared about anything he said – I doubt he even cared whether he ran on a Republican or Democrat ticket. Like the astute businessman that he is, he found a niche in the market and he filled it. White anger was building and extreme right-wing sentiments were becoming mainstream in the West; Republican candidates were samey, cautious and uninspiring. Somebody had to take advantage of that landscape. Fame-hungry, sociopathic Donald Trump, unfettered by deep-seated opinions or morals, was born to do it.

Trump probably won’t last longer than one term in office, if he manages to make it through that term in the first place. His purported views are unpopular and he is now being forced to abandon his staunchest advocates. He lacks the ethical backbone to push a big, controversial project like Obamacare, gay marriage or gun control through the system over a number of years – this is, after all, a man who previously described himself in public as pro-choice and then said during his campaign that women who accessed abortions deserved “punishment” – and he is far too erratic to build lasting bridges. As the days go by and so-called U-turns pile up, I feel cautiously optimistic that he will be so mired in bureaucracy he won’t be able to make any tangible achievements. Because the truth is that Donald Trump doesn’t care what you think he stands for, so long as he’s standing in the Oval Office. And that attitude can only get you so far.