I still don’t like Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him for in either the primary or the general election. I even left the Republican Party after his nomination and I still haven’t returned.
But no one should ever confuse my personal dislike of Donald Trump with support for what was conservative orthodoxy before Trump. The conservative agenda was in dire need of updating and I even think Trump is more right than wrong in where he wants to take it.
National Review‘s Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru both take Trump to the woodshed while agreeing that Trumpism itself may be the way forward for the right.
And this may be the biggest problem for Trumpism: The president himself, who recently called himself a globalist and a nationalist, isn’t a reliable Trumpist.
Some of the core themes of his campaign could, it’s true, be combined into a reasonably coherent view of government policy. A Trumpist philosophy would feature skepticism of trade, immigration, and foreign intervention, a moderate social conservatism, and support for government activism to benefit the working class. Think of it as Buchananism with less zeal for small government and less religious traditionalism.
[…]Many Republicans, especially on the Hill, have felt only relief on seeing the party domesticate Trump. And some relief is justified. It’s good that Trump isn’t going to wreck NATO and that the likelihood of a trade war has declined. But Trump’s failure to build a sensible conservative version of populism comes at a price: Much of the party’s agenda remains defective in the very ways that contributed to Trump’s rise in the first place. It is too geared toward the interests of rich people and big business, and insufficiently relevant to the challenges of today’s economy.
How might Republicans — whatever their attitude toward the president himself — adapt their program to make it more responsive to contemporary concerns? They could scale back their tax cuts for the highest earners in order to provide more middle-class tax relief. They could alter their health-care bill so that it shifts more Medicaid recipients into the private insurance market and deprives fewer of them of coverage altogether. They could reduce low-skilled legal immigration in addition to ratcheting up enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration. And they could make a major push to expand educational options beyond the traditional four-year college, notably including apprenticeships (an idea whose potential appeal to this president should not require elaboration).
Imagine a Republican Party that was more interested in the concerns of average people instead of the concerns of Wall Street. There is more and more evidence that corporate America is aligning with the left so why should the right be concerned with them? How about championing small business owners and ordinary workers instead?
So much of the conservative movement is stuck in the 1980s. The fetish that tax cuts solve everything is part of that. The 1980s have moved on, we need a conservative movement that is in touch with the realities of the 21st century.
The conservative agenda needs to face the realities of modern America. Donald Trump himself may not pull the party there but hopefully his movement will.