WHICH side are you on? Are you with Donald Trump, or with the Washington insiders who want to undo his election? Do you favor the legitimate president of the United States, or an unelected “deep state” — bureaucrats, judges, former F.B.I. directors, the media — that’s determined not to let him govern? Are you going to let a counterrevolution by elites bring down a man who was elevated to the White House precisely because the country knows that its elite is no longer fit to govern?
This is how the debate over Donald Trump’s mounting difficulties is being framed by some of my fellow conservatives, from Sean Hannity to more serious pundits and intellectuals.
.. But Trump is not actually governing as a populist or revolutionary, and the rolling crises of his first four months are not really about resistance to an “America First” or “drain the swamp” agenda
the various outsider groups that cast their lot with him
- working-class ex-Democrats to
- antiwar conservatives to
- free-trade skeptics to
- build-the-wall immigration hawks to
- religious conservatives fearful for their liberties —
have seen him pick very few difficult fights on their behalf.
.. his legislative agenda has been standard establishment-Republican fare — spending cuts to pay for upper-bracket tax cuts, rinse, repeat.
.. he’s mostly handed foreign policy over to his military advisers
.. Religious conservatives got Neil Gorsuch because he was a pedigreed insider. But they aren’t getting anything but symbolism on religious liberty, because Trump doesn’t want to pick a fight with the elite consensus on gay and transgender rights.
the establishment keeps winning:
- Planned Parenthood was funded in the budget deal and
- the border wall was not, the promised
- NAFTA rollback looks more likely to be a toothless renegotiation, Trump’s occasional talk about
- breaking up the big banks is clearly just talk,
- we haven’t torn up the Iran deal or
- ditched the Paris climate accords, and more.
.. populism needs a seat at the table of power in the West, and the people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune.
.. Trump is not that figure. As a populist he’s a paper tiger
.. too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them.
he’s not being dogged by leaks and accusations because
- he’s trying to turn the Republican Party into a “worker’s party” (he isn’t), or because
- he’s throwing the money-changers out of the republic’s temples (don’t make me laugh), or because
- he’s taking steps to reduce America’s role as policeman of the world (none are evident).
.. he’s at war with the institutions that surround him because he behaves consistently erratically and inappropriately and dangerously, and perhaps criminally as well.
.. there is no elite “counterrevolution” here for them to resist, because there is no Trump revolution in the first place.