“Where policy was concerned, the story of Donald Trump’s first year in office was simple: The populist of the campaign trail, the man who won the Republican nomination and the White House by ignoring conservative orthodoxy and promising the moon, was replaced by a president who essentially conceded control of his agenda to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and spent down his limited political capital pursuing conventionally right-wing policies — unsuccessfully on health care, successfully on taxes, but in each case without much moderate or bipartisan support. …
So this State of the Union both showed what a more successful version of the Trump presidency would look like — still conservative on many fronts but more genuinely populist, less same-old G.O.P. — and why the possibility of that success has probably already slipped from this administration’s grip. There were ideas here that could make Trump’s second year more successful than the first, but there was no plan to actually enact them, no sign that Trump is prepared to build bridges where he’s burned them, no plan for getting more out of this speech than just a temporary polling bump. …”
“During the campaign, it became clear that a major part of Mr. Trump’s appeal was that he frequently broke with Republican orthodoxies on a host of issues, including foreign policy, trade, entitlements, health care and, to some degree, immigration. His unorthodoxy proved to be an asset for his campaign and is among the reasons exit polls indicated he prevailed over Hillary Clinton among independent voters.
Yet these same independents are by and large the supporters Mr. Trump has lost over the past year. Much of this is no doubt due to the tenor of this presidency and the daily barrage of tweets, leaks, investigations and general partisanship that is the hallmark of Washington these days. But his loss of support among independents may also be partly because his presidency has turned out to be much more generically Republican than what many anticipated. …
As Republicans work to make traditional conservatism and populist Trumpism coexist harmoniously inside their party, creativity is required to achieve compromises on policy goals. By making paid family leave a signature issue for 2018, President Trump would be embracing an idea at the heart of his 2016 success: that he is the one Republican willing to break with party norms to help working- and middle-class Americans.”
Yes, the conservative braintrust who feared Trump’s hostile takeover of the GOP during the campaign would destroy conservatism are now worried that he didn’t mean any of his populist campaign rhetoric and that voters now perceive him as too conservative.
Note: President Trump’s political brand has done a 180 degree turn over the last year. Whereas he was once perceived as the most moderate Republican president in over twenty years, he is now perceived as the most conservative president since Ronald Reagan.