Trump’s New-Right Politics of Solidarity

President Trump, Vice President Pence, and their wives, on the steps of the Capitol.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times


“The time for empty talk is over,” our new president said near the end of his relatively brief Inaugural Address. And if he actually makes good on that promise, if the speech wasn’t just talk but a blueprint for effective presidential action, then we just watched an epochal moment: the last rites of Reaganite conservatism, and the birth of a populist and nationalist new right.

The speech was, as predicted, “Jacksonian” — populist, combative, anti-Washington, thick with promises to eradicate America’s enemies and favor the forgotten man over globalist elites. But if it was anti-Washington, it was not remotely anti-government: Just as he did on the campaign trail, Trump eschewed the rhetoric of liberty in favor of expansive promises of “protection” and rhapsodic paeans to infrastructure spending.

At its darkest, this sort of protective politics veers toward fascism; at its best (and the new president’s rhetoric did try to reach in that direction) it points toward a pan-ethnic nationalism, a right-wing politics of solidarity. But in neither case is it compatible with the limited-government catechism and the Republican politics that pushes for free trade deals and fights against Medicaid expansions.

Thus, the great ideological questions of the Trump era: Will his rhetoric actually define the policy that gets made in the halls of Congress, where a more Reaganite conservatism still theoretically holds sway? Or will his words be a Buchananite patina on an agenda mostly written by supply-siders and Goldman Sachs appointees? Or will the conflict between the two tendencies simply make his administration less epochal than incoherent, less transformative than simply ineffective?

During the Trump transition, observers on both the right and left cited the political scientist Stephen Skowronek’s theory of “disjunctive” presidents who straddle transitions between old orders and emerging ones. One such president was Jimmy Carter, who tried to maintain the creaking New Deal coalition while also grasping at a new vision for liberal governance. He failed because his party simply couldn’t accommodate the tension, and he himself couldn’t effectively blend the old and new.

Right now Trump looks like he might be similarly disjunctive. Like Mr. Carter with the ’70s-era Democrats, he has grasped — correctly — that Republican politics desperately needs to be reinvented. But his populist-nationalist vision has seemed too racially and culturally exclusive to win him majority support, and it’s layered atop a party that still mostly believes in the “populism” of cutting the estate tax.

Combine those brute political facts with Trump’s implausibly expansive promises, and a Carter scenario — gridlock, disappointment, collapse — seems like the most plausible way to bet. But on the evidence of this speech, Trump has no intention of playing it safe: He will either remake conservatism in his image, or see his presidency fail in the attempt.


About Uy Do

Banking System Analyst, former NTT data Global Marketing Dept Senior Analyst, Banking System Risk Specialist, HR Specialist
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, US economic, US economy, US President. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s