Republicans V. Trumpism
Last week, I decided to write an article about the difference between traditional Republican politics and Trump’s politics. A seemingly easy undertaking became much more complex because the Republican Party lacks coherent philosophy, and is instead bound by a collection of ideologies. Within the Republican umbrella, there are libertarians, authoritarians, religious conservatives, and nationalists. Within the wide range of opinions though, is a collective emphasis on states’ rights, moralist legislation, deregulation, and tax cuts. Trump has not only changed the nature of all these central concepts, but has completely stopped caring about states’ rights. He has consolidated federal power in the name of nationalism and authority, a fundamental shift away from traditional Republican politics.
Trump’s politics tend to focus on a bizarre mixture of populism, authoritarianism, and deregulation. His legislative priorities are focused on industry deregulation, trade restrictions, military spending and nationalism. Trump’s attention is on increasing federal spending for nationalist purposes and decreasing regulation domestically. Instead of slashing all federal spending and regulations, Trump is just cutting the ones he thinks are hurting industries that employ his populist base. Consider that the President is cutting Medicaid, but wants to vastly increase infrastructure spending. Instead of placing enforcement and funding in the hands of the states, he is consolidating federal power with each Twitter decree and unconstitutional executive order.
This is possibly the greatest split between Trump’s politics and those of traditional Republicans. Traditional Republicans usually try to decrease federal power and spending. Trump is fusing federal power in the name of nationalism. His populist base has blessed him with an authoritarian mandate to “make America great again,” and he is using it to bolster the military and enforce protectionist economic policy of his favor.
Also gone is the traditional Republican focus on certain civil liberties (the second amendment) and moralist legislation. Trump does not concern himself with agendas that traditional Republicans are driven by, such as social conservatism or open borders.
Despite all of these differences, it seems to me as though Trumpist politics are the natural consequence of traditional Republican strategy. Republicans have long used demagoguery, national security, and racial undertones to promote other non-aligning agendas. Just look at Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” rhetoric, or George W. Bush’s passage of the USA Patriot Act. Look at Republicans’ efforts to alleviate crime and drug use, and their subtle appeal to race distinctions throughout. They have stoked the fires of nationalism and authoritarianism in order to advance their agenda for the last thirty years. It is not surprising that Trump has co-opted their party and transformed their politics.