It seems like the campaign was ages ago.
Of the four major long term trends stemming from Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, we have already discussed social media censorship and leftwing political violence. The third major long term trend has been Trump’s broad shift toward mainstream conservatism.
Trump’s victory in the 2016 election was supposed to be a “nationalist populist revolution.” Almost immediately, the decision was made to move away from that. It began with the disavowal of the Alt-Right and the selection of the Cabinet last November and December. From the vice president down to low level staffers, mainstream conservatives were put into key positions across the government and somehow even the #NeverTrump crowd came to wield power over hiring decisions.
By the Inauguration, the “nationalist populist revolution” had been reduced to a small faction inside the Trump administration. It consisted of Steve Bannon, General Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller and handful of other people. Inside the White House, the Bannon faction was pitted against the Reince faction and Kushner faction, and ultimately the Kushner faction won out and dispatched both of its rivals. Now, it is just President Trump and his family surrounded by establishment types and conservatives.
Across the board, there has been a reversion to the conservative status quo: the Syria strike, Russia sanctions, Dodd-Frank repeal, NATO ceasing to be obsolete, bloating the military, playing Team America World Police with Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, subservience to Israel, celebrating the multicultural calendar, preserving the DACA amnesty, the Charlottesville resolution, failing to fund the border wall, the Paul Ryan agenda of healthcare and tax cuts which has dominated the entire year.
The Republican Senate is scheduled to vote on tax reform this morning. Do you remember how the hedge fund guys were making a killing and were going to pay up during the campaign? The Senate and House versions of tax reform preserved the carried interest loophole. Do you remember the substantial border tax that was going to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States? It was dropped after intense pushback from Toyota and Walmart. Do you remember when Trump was strong arming companies like Carrier to keep jobs in the United States? He stopped doing that.
The heart of tax reform is slashing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent which was the ¡Jeb! rate. John McCain and Mitt Romney ran on a 25 percent corporate tax rate in 2008 and 2012. Originally, Trump wanted to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, but regardless it will still be the largest corporate tax cut in history. It will be paid for by spending cuts in other areas.
It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. Donald Trump campaigned on a big tax cut. He campaigned on lots of other things like how he thought the Paris climate agreement and Iran deal were horrible. He campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare too. The trick was that the things we liked about him during the campaign were precisely the things he wasn’t serious about!
A year later, we more or less have the same foreign policy, the same trade policy and the same immigration policy. Culturally, we have the same taboos except that now homosexuality has been mainstreamed on the Right and the Left has become more radicalized and violent. The agenda has been healthcare and tax cuts – mainstream conservative priorities – and welfare reform is said to be up next. After Kate Steinle’s killer is deported, he will probably just walk back across the US-Mexico border.
If you closed your eyes and ignored all the bombast and tweeting, what has fundamentally changed on the policy front? What has President Trump done that President Mitt Romney wouldn’t have done? Even the travel ban is a version of something George W. Bush did after 9/11. President Mitt Romney would have cut taxes, repealed Obamacare, repealed regulations, etc. The only significant difference is the tweeting. Policywise, we are about where the Romney administration would be now with the exception of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.
Maybe this will change in 2018, but I doubt it. This seems to be the trajectory. The same is true of leftwing political violence and social media censorship. In the next article, we will talk about how these three long term trends have interacted with the fourth long term trend.