Although I’ve been a registered Republican since 1980, I’ve never been a big political party man; for me a political party is a means to an end.
When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, he was instrumental in transforming the Republican Party into the home of conservative values, principles, and policies.
Since Reagan, the labels ‘Republican’ and ‘conservative’ were usually taken to mean the same thing.
No longer. Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s current leader, is the man who said, “This is called the Republican Party, it’s not called the conservative party“.
And now in the age of Trump, the Republican Party that used to be the home of rule of law, small government, free markets, and a certain modesty about the scope and competence of government has been up-ended.
Trump is wasting no time in making it clear he is no conservative, by openly advocating for and pursuing anti-conservative, anti-free market, crony capitalist, big government, president-centric policies.
Will constitutional conservatives in congress at some point find their voice and push back against the current Trumpian zeitgeist?
It’s a good question. Some conservative political pundits like radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt is currently busy hyping his latest book, ‘The Fourth Way – The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority’ where he lays out a road map for governance that if I understand correctly includes an attempt to integrate Trump’s populist/nationalist perspective with a more traditional constitutional conservatism he claims stands the best chance of giving the Republican Party a position of political dominance for the foreseeable future.
In terms of some policy box-checking and personnel, constitutional conservatives will likely find themselves in the dilemma of largely approving of many of Trump’s conservative-friendly policies and picks for the Supreme Court and other government positions, while strongly disapproving of his crony capitalist, protectionist economic approach that concentrates the economic benefits to a favored few at the cost of the many.
But for constitutional conservatives who believe that character is destiny, the wild card and area of greatest concern will always be Trump *the man*.
Peter Wehner, a conservative who served in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush White Houses said of Trump during the 2016 Republican primaries:
“I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton…my opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is first I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, I think that he has a personality disorder, I think he’s obsessive…I think the main requirement to be President of the United States isn’t where you check the boxes on policy…but it is temperament, it’s disposition, it’s the idea of whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence. Not only do I think that Donald Trump is worse than Hillary Clinton on that score – and that is a low bar – I think he is worse than anyone I’ve ever seen in public life.”
Will good – or even superb – Supreme Court and cabinet picks, along with great policies like de-funding Planned Parenthood and strengthening border security, be enough to compensate for Trump *the man*?
I’ll let Wehner answer: “This isn’t going to end well.”
Please see this piece from American Enterprise Institute’s Mark J. Perry:
I’ve heard not a few of my friends and colleagues in person and on social media make the claim that Donald Trump is a “pragmatist” who, as a businessman, is only interested in doing “what works”.
But on closer examination, the claim that Trump is a “pragmatist” doesn’t hold up when it comes to economic policy.
It may be that because Trump is plain-spoken and a novice to political office that heretofore he hasn’t fully fleshed out and articulated his views and philosophy on economics.
But now with the presidential campaign and election behind us, it’s clear what Trump’s economic philosophy is: ‘Economic Nationalism’, also known as ‘Protectionism’.
Trump’s top adviser, former Goldman Sachs executive and former editor of the right-wing website ‘Breitbart’, Steve Bannon, describes himself as an ‘Economic Nationalist’.
But will ‘Economic Nationalism’ (i.e., ‘Protectionism’) ‘Make America Great Again’?
No. But it will benefit a few at the expense of the many.
It will also give Trump the opportunity to do what he loves to do: get in front of the cameras and talk up how his intervention saved a few hundred jobs here and a few thousand jobs there.
Interestingly, the relatively few that stand to benefit from Trump’s ‘Economic Nationalism’ appear to be those areas of the country where there was a high concentration of Trump voters (Obama did virtually the same thing with his ‘stimulus’, shoveling taxpayer’s money to folks who voted for him and donated to his campaign).
I am only half-joking when I say I’m considering putting together a GoFundMe drive to buy a few hundred copies of Thomas Sowell’s textbook, ‘Basic Economics’ and send them to the Trump White House and to Congress.
That’s because the bottom line of Trump’s/Bannon’s ‘Economic Nationalism’ is that it’s a recipe to ‘Make America Expensive and Poor Again’, not ‘Great Again’.
Remember when Trump said he’d release his tax returns?
Appearing on a Sunday show, Conway said Trump is not going to release his tax returns.
Speculation as to why Trump didn’t want to release his tax returns includes the possibility he isn’t as wealthy as he claims.
But more relevant than Trump’s ego is his unusual ‘bromance‘ with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, a known thug and murderer who is arguably this country’s main geopolitical adversary.
In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
By not releasing his tax returns, Trump broke a decades-long precedent where presidential candidates from both parties released their tax returns to the American people.
Understandably, Team Trump wants to change the subject, but the bi-partisan Senate intelligence committee is planning to interview senior Trump administration officials as part of its inquiry into Russian meddling in the US electoral process.
Trump was successful in blustering and playing out the clock on not releasing his tax returns before winning the election. Had he released them as he originally pledged he would, many of the questions now being raised would either have been answered or not raised in the first place.
Similar to how Hillary Clinton was dogged for months about her unauthorized email server, Trump’s refusal to release his taxes, his unusual praise for Putin, his son’s comments about “money pouring in from Russia” and other questions threaten to put a lingering cloud of troubling questions and uncertainty over the Trump administration.