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The anecdote is the policy: not just our "stunt presidency"

Slate's Julia Turner 12/4/16 wrote The Stunt Presidency, subtitled "Donald Trump plans to replace governing with gimmickry. It’s already working."

She pointed to the "many reasons to be skeptical" of Trump's claim to save 1,000 jobs at Carrier Corp., but says none matter:

The incident shows how keenly Trump understands the power of a concrete example. The Carrier deal will be good for the workers whose jobs will stay in Indiana, yes, but it functions primarily as a stunt that expertly reinforces Trump’s brand. As a candidate, he promised to use his deal-making skills to improve the lot of the American worker. Now, nearly two months before he even takes the oath of office, he has delivered. No matter what happens on Trump’s watch—to Carrier, to the manufacturing sector, to employment numbers overall—there will be some set of voters, and not just Trump fans, who vividly remember this moment, thanks to its clarity, to its tangibility. Each critique of the Carrier deal requires the listener to hold in his or her head several levels of abstraction: ideas about how systems and incentives work, ideas about cause and effect, ideas about how corruption can unfurl or how policy can affect millions of people. And so each critique has less impact than the sturdy story: Last week in Indiana, Donald Trump saved a thousand jobs.
I don't agree completely, but I do recognize that the "anecdote is the policy" also applies to real estate business (and see how that shapes Trump's world).

Consider the various happy people who have gotten jobs at the Barclays Center or the presumably happy people who will win the lottery for below-market housing.

The critiques of those anecdotes require complexity. Yes, the jobs are better than no jobs, but they're not careers. Yes, the affordable apartments--especially for low-income households--offer far better and more secure housing than can be found on the bruising open market. But the housing is less affordable, and less timely than promised, and hundreds of thousands of people remain in need.



The journalistic response


Writes Turner:
If journalists choose to ignore these easy narratives, they will stand uncontested, because Trump can deliver them to voters on his own. Journalists must instead set out to challenge these stories—by, say, following Carrier and its employees over the next four years, or by examining how the federal contracts for parent company United Technology Corp. do or don’t change, or by tracking the fortunes of other companies in the field—but as they do they’ll still be directing attention at the tidy diorama Donald Trump has put forth.

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