How is Donald Trump “not a normal Republican”? Let New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait count the ways. Trump is “crudely ethno-nationalist,” wrote Chait in a Tuesday post, and he’s “personally ignorant and undisciplined in a manner that sets him apart not only from traditional Republicans but most human adults.” That’s pretty much it for Trump’s deviations from orthodoxy, according to Chait, who thinks current White House economic and fiscal proposals are “perfectly orthodox” by party standards, notwithstanding blasts at them from GOP-aligned sources such as National Review.
For Chait, whose first book, published in 2007, attacked the ongoing Republican push for tax cuts and was called The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics, that criticism masks a distinction without a difference. “It is true, as conservatives say, that Trump’s budget numbers do not really add up,” he noted. “But he is relying on the same voodoo economics assumptions that are de rigeur [sic] in his party.”
Chait went on to argue that “the illusion that Trump has radically altered [the Republican] agenda is convenient for all sides. Trump ran a wildly unconventional race, and won several blue states in part by presenting himself as an economic populist.” Nonetheless, “‘Trumpism’ is mainly a post hoc attempt to build an intellectual edifice around a race-baiting demagogue. Since it did not spring from any serious analysis, it has mostly grabbed onto ideas that were already lying around the conservative movement.”
If right-wingers can’t implement their economic agenda, Chait predicted that they’ll attribute their failure to Trump’s alleged squishiness rather than acknowledge that America dislikes their ideas (bolding added):
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Just as conservatives fulsomely embraced George W. Bush during the first three-quarters of his presidency, and then swiftly disowned him after his collapse, they may need to blame any Trump failure on his un-conservative traits.
An axiom of conservative movement thought, coined by Rick Perlstein, holds that conservatism never fails, it is only failed. Republican domestic policy has collapsed time and again over the last quarter-century: under George H.W. Bush, Newt’s Republican revolution, and Dubya. Conservatives have gained control over the party, but never figured out a way to reconcile the gap between their preference for low taxes on the rich and low social-insurance spending and a public that demands the opposite. The tensions are evident again already…Trump’s very real indecisiveness and ignorance of the policy substance has made it much harder for Congress to unify. But the main reason these policies are floundering is their inherent unpopularity. Trump would almost surely sign whatever tax cuts and repeal legislation Congress sends him. They aren’t writing the laws because no version of these policies can be written without exposing Congress to high levels of blowback.