Ross Douthat asks today, “Can Trumpism Survive A Trump Administration?” He notes that Trump’s “revolution was so sudden and sweeping that it raced ahead of itself, capturing the White House without having any of the plans and personnel and foot soldiers that actually operationalizing Trumpism would require.”
“Trumpism,” he suggests, is itself rather inchoate, in part because “Trump himself is inexperienced, underinformed and deeply malleable,” but also because he invented it out of whole political cloth. He might have captured and given voice to a groundswell of popular demand for “change,” but he does not come to office with a full portfolio of policies and programs that a coterie of Trumpist intellectuals and wonks have hammered out in the wilderness while waiting for a leader.
Every administration tends to have ideological divisions, to rely on an old guard of party people (moderate Republicans in the Reagan era, Clintonites in the Obama presidency) alongside its newcomers, innovators and ideological insurgents. But in this case, apart from the infamous-but-still-marginal alt-right and the small clutch of conservative intellectuals for Trump (most of whom don’t agree on what being “for Trump” means), there is really no Trumpist new guard at all, at least among the people qualified to staff a presidential administration — no roster of elected officials who rose to power promising to Make America Great Again, no list of policy thinkers who have spent the last decade dreaming of tariffs and mapping out Keynesian infrastructure projects and planning for a détente with Moscow.
That may (or may not) be true of tariffs and infrastructure projects and détente, but it is definitely not true with regard to civil rights. On the contrary, the country is virtually teeming with academics, activists, think tanks, and some successful politicians who have devoted decades to developing policies and programs dedicated to breathing new life into the old principle of colorblind equality, the formerly core value holding that neither benefits nor burdens should be distributed on the basis of race. Furthermore, these efforts over the years have received virtually no support whatsoever from the Republican Party or its leaders despite the fact that such policies have consistently received substantial majority support in polls and surveys.
Hmm. A vastly popular policy agenda that has been cold-shouldered by the Republican Party for years out of a cowardly fear of being called racist. Could anything be more suitably “Trumpist” than that?