One year after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, establishment Republicans as well as establishment Democrats remain at a loss to explain why. To those on the left, Trump is a travesty – a white supremacist and sexist Neanderthal who must be impeached. To those on the right, especially the Never Trumpers, Trump is no less an aberration — a liberal masquerading as a conservative, a fraud willing to say or do anything who somehow won last November and who deserves to be removed today.
But the Trump detractors of the left and right need only remove their blinders to understand what hit them. The voters that put him in office – the “deplorables” unblinded by animus toward the Trump persona — correctly sized up Trump last year. Trump is a true conservative, the genuine article.
Trump doesn’t talk like a conservative – he doesn’t talk like anyone in the rarified circles of policy wonkdom and officialdom. But his instincts are as conservative as they come, and no Republican – not even Ronald Reagan – can claim a more conservative record in office.
In going after big government, Trump is pursuing unheard of cuts in the size of the civil service. He has already made unprecedented cuts in the regulatory field – removing 16 regulations for each one added – and plans to eliminate 80 per cent of federal regulations while shortening the approval process for projects from the current 10-20 years to two. To date he has removed the red tape preventing pipeline projects from proceeding, LNG projects from proceeding and energy from being developed on federal lands. Apart from liberating these economically viable projects from government ensnarement, he is liberating the economy from subsidizing numerous projects that are unviable on their own, among them renewables and electric vehicles. Standing apart from all other leaders in the world, Trump has repudiated the Paris Climate Agreement and is defunding the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In the economic sphere, Trump is pushing for the largest tax cut in history, one that would provide relief for corporations as well as individuals. He would fund these cuts in good part by removing tax breaks that overwhelmingly benefit the rich. These include the current ability of the affluent to deduct interest on million-dollar mortgages for their homes, along with deducting their state and local taxes from their federal tax bill. In effect, the affluent in the U.S. pay little or no state and local tax, courtesy of less affluent federal taxpayers who mostly have been unable to capitalize on these made-for-the-rich features of the insider-benefitting U.S. tax code.
In trade, Trump is pursuing free trade, just not through the multilateral agreements that have worked to hobble U.S. exporters. The bilateral deals he wants with Canada and Japan, for example, would see these countries’ protected agricultural markets opened up to U.S. exports.
True conservatives have a reputation for being tough in foreign policy. Trump in his few months in office has already eliminated the ISIL caliphate and is tougher on North Korea and Iran than predecessors Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama, whose appeasement encouraged North Korea to become a nuclear weapons state. Trump is also likely to be tougher than Reagan, who responded to Hezbollah’s killing of 241 U.S. marines and service personnel in Beirut in 1983 by turning tail. Putin, who obtained control over part of Ukraine and all of Crimea during the Obama years, has taken no territorial liberties since Trump assumed the presidency.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in Trump’s policies and personality has been his claimed opposition to abortion, a conservative touchstone which evangelicals – almost alone — rightly grasped as genuine. “President Trump has been the most pro-life president in modern history, slashing the Mexico City Policy shortly after taking office, which sent millions of taxpayer dollars overseas to pay for abortions,” states Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, echoing a common view in the pro-life community. Trump gets credit with it for appointing Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, appointing consistently pro-life judges to lower courts, and stacking “the Department of Health & Human Services with pro-life warriors who are already making positive differences for the protection of the unborn.”
Trump’s cabinet, in fact, is unusually, archly conservative, says Bill Bennett, who served as education secretary under Reagan. In health, the Trump administration promotes health care allowances, in education, school choice. Donald Trump’s cabinet is a “more conservative cabinet” than Reagan’s cabinet was, Bennett told a conservative conference last month.
Trump is the president of the United States because the United States citizenry is, fundamentally, conservative. According to Gallup, conservatives outnumber liberals in 44 of the 50 states. Since Reagan, Democrats have won most presidencies in part because their Republican challengers have presented themselves as somewhat moderate, in part because their Democratic opponents have presented themselves as somewhat conservative. Trump presents as someone unambiguously conservative, but only to those who don’t believe everything they read in the mainstream press, and who don’t suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Trump’s personality rubs most people the wrong way, leading many to reject him out of hand. But for those able to look past his persona – his tweets, his vulgarity, his crassness, whatever — and to judge him on his substance, Trump presents as extraordinarily fit to be president, as a standup guy, a true conservative able to take on the corruption of the elites and the obscenity of political correctness.