They said Trump wasn’t conservative. Now he’s already batting nearly a thousand
Lawrence Solomon | January 23, 2017 | Last Updated: Jan 23 8:00 AM ET
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More from Lawrence Solomon | @LSolomonTweets
“Trump is not a true conservative,” #NeverTrumpers charged for months, even after Trump won the Republican nomination for president. Maybe not. But no conservative can be dismayed by the agenda Trump has begun to roll out today, his first Monday on the job following his inauguration. As far as true conservatives are concerned, Trump is pretty much batting a thousand.
Believe in small government? The Trump team plans to unveil a budget in the next 100 days that will propose more than US$10 trillion — yes, trillion with a “t” — in cuts over 10 years. Based on the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Reform, the Trump team — peopled by some of the very same researchers who drafted Heritage’s blueprint — have gone beyond anything Republican fiscal hawks in Congress have contemplated.
Gone will be dozens of agencies and programs providing corporate welfare, such as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration and the Minority Business Development Agency. Gone will be numerous government-owned or backed housing and mortgage agencies such as Fannie and Ginnie Mae, and Freddy Mac, which helped create the housing bubble and the subsequent financial crisis. Gone, too, will be largesse from most federal departments, and much of the red tape that now bleeds industry of profits and productivity.
Like privatization and free markets? The power-marketing authorities that now provide electricity to rural areas will lose their subsidies and be operated by private parties, to end the distortion they now cause in power markets. The postal service would lose its subsidies and be required to operate in the free market in competition with any firm that wants to vie for its customers. The Bureau of Reclamation that now subsidizes special interests through its allocation of water rights would be eliminated, with water rights instead being allocated by competitive bidding. Federal lands will be open to energy, mining and other resource developments.
Don’t like being lectured about white privilege, radical feminism and other politically correct propaganda funded at taxpayer expense from public broadcasters, arts organizations and government funding bodies? The Trump team plans to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and to altogether eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, which feed the philosophies that deride and undermine American patriotism and American exceptionalism.
Trump plans to honour the many campaign promises that he made, and that conservatives care deeply about. Obamacare will be repealed and replaced with more market-oriented approaches, such as health-care allowances, which will let Americans control their health-care purchases, and the ability to buy insurance across state lines. Personal choice is also coming to education where school vouchers and other private sector innovations will be allowed to flourish as alternatives to the public school system that has failed America’s children so thoroughly. Almost the entirety of Trump’s domestic agenda — in financial reform, in labour reform, in telecommunications, in Supreme Court nominations and in fighting crime, including by building that wall — reads like a conservative’s wish list.
Away from home, Trump also bats about 1.000 with conservatives. As reiterated in his inaugural address Friday, he vows to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth. On Israel, a core conservative issue, he remains determined to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and to protect Israel against its enemies, whom with Barack Obama’s encouragement had engineered the recent anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council.
Because the UN is so hostile to the U.S., Trump — to the delight of conservatives — gave notice that America’s deference to the UN would change as soon as he took office. He’ll eviscerate programs that undermine America’s interests, starting with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the mastermind of much of the climate change hysteria that the world has endured over the last quarter-century. The UN, which now receives almost a quarter of its funding from the U.S., will be forced to reform, failing which it risks going the way of its now-defunct predecessor, the League of Nations.
To accomplish what many view as the most ambitious conservative agenda ever proposed by an American president, Trump has assembled a dream team of a cabinet — not a squish among them. To almost everyone’s surprise, Trump freed these hardliners to oppose his policies in public as well as in private, as seen in their Congressional confirmation hearings where they unapologetically dissented from Trump’s views, and with his blessing. No need for cabinet solidarity under Trump; the buck stops with him, and everyone’s welcome to know it.
Trump will in all likelihood fall short in implementing his agenda — all presidents do, given the fierce lobbying that special interests will unleash on members of Congress, who ultimately hold the purse strings. And some Trump policies will doubtless offend conservatives. We do not yet know how his trade protectionism will play out, or whether his US$1 trillion infrastructure plan can escape being riddled by pork, and running up the federal debt.
But even if Trump ends up batting .500, he will go down in history as transformative, a president who rivals the ultimate conservative president, Ronald Reagan. Trump may indeed not be a true conservative, as many have feared; he may be adopting conservative policies not from ideological conviction but from a businessman’s bent of doing what works. Either way, #NeverTrump is dead; conservatism in America lives.