“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
At his inauguration, Donald Trump made this pledge to the American people. Despite leading the first unified Republican government in a decade, Trump failed to deliver on this pledge in his first 100 days in office.
The brand of populism that helped Trump’s rise to power has been squeezed out by the longstanding division within the Republican Party between the GOP establishment and the conservative movement. Over the past 100 days, a conventional Republican presidency wedded to conservative orthodoxy has emerged, albeit with Trump’s distinctive character flaws.
A Trumpian populist policy agenda has also been hampered by the dynamics within the White House. After the failed travel-ban orders and his demotion from the National Security Council, Steve Bannon saw the influence of his populist faction wane. Major infighting with Jared Kushner’s centrist faction further undermined Bannon’s standing and endangered his position in the administration. This chaotic environment ultimately allowed Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus to persuade Trump to favor orthodox conservatives’ priorities.
A Conventional Republican Presidency
No episode demonstrated this better than the Obamacare-repeal debacle. Trump and Ryan launched the Republican legislative agenda with a deeply unpopular and regressive health-care reform bill, the American Health Care Act. It would have kicked 24 million Americans off insurance by 2026, including many of Trump’s blue-collar supporters. Only 17 percent of the public supported the AHCA. The principle that the federal government should ensure universal health-care coverage is now widely accepted by the American public, and was accepted by Trump during the campaign. Any Republican health-care plan that violates this principle is doomed to fail.
Another unpopular legislative initiative was Trump’s budget blueprint, which arrived stillborn as Democrats and moderate Republicans denounced cuts to popular programs such as Meals on Wheels (which actually was affected indirectly, through the elimination of Community Development Block Grants). The proposed cuts would undermine a federal safety net that holds as many as 6.2 million white working-class Americans, Trump’s key demographic, out of poverty. It is not a surprise that the proposed cuts came straight out of orthodox conservatism’s playbook, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation. And in another significant budget row, Trump blinked during negotiations with Democrats last week by withdrawing his request for border wall funding in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Trump has fallen into the same trap with his broader economic policy. After much speculation, the administration unveiled its tax-reform blueprint last week. In another surrender to orthodox conservative thinking, the blueprint is largely made up of unfunded tax cuts for corporate America. There is no mention of a border-adjustment tax, or any other kind of tax on imports. Infrastructure spending appears to have been kicked down the road. Despite this shift away from populism, Trump’s tax-reform plan will still divide the Republican Party as dramatically as Obamacare repeal has. By …read more
Via:: American Conservative
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