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‘Trumpism’ has a political future even if Trump’s is unclear

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'Trumpism' has a political future even if Trump's is unclear

Will Donald Trump come back from his defeat?

Trump has already let it be known he intends to primary, beginning in 2022, all the “weak Republicans” who betrayed him in the impeachment fight. He’s prepared for a civil war within the party’s ranks; he thinks the other guy started it but plans to finish it on his terms.

But the second impeachment, and the tragedy at the Capitol, will weigh on Trump’s support. An erosion has already begun. Almost every poll shows his approval ratings plummeting since Jan. 6. In most polls, a majority of Americans say he deserves a great deal of blame for the storming of the Capitol. Only 43 percent of Republicans say they want the party to continue to treat him as its leader.

Although not catastrophic, that public sentiment doesn’t augur well for a political comeback. The trends will probably worsen, at least temporarily, as the second impeachment plays out and as various state and federal prosecutors come after the ex-president. Even at the peak of his popularity and power, Trump’s approval ratings were stuck in the mid-40s. 

Much will depend, however, on the comparisons offered up by the Biden administration. If President Biden were to fare as poorly as, say, Jimmy Carter did at both domestic and foreign policy, Trump and his administration would begin to look better in retrospect — and so might the prospect of a second Trump, or at least Trumpist, administration.

The danger to the GOP and to the conservative movement is that the impending feud between pro- and anti-Trump forces could produce a long-term split that would hand 2024 and subsequent elections to the Democratic progressives. Trump could run in the GOP primaries, fall short and still take up a third party’s nomination — thus really sticking it to the Republican establishment!

What would happen then to Trumpism, assuming there is such a thing? Virginia Postrel writes that “Trumpism without Trump is like chocolate chip ice cream without chocolate chips. Missing its defining ingredient, it’s plain vanilla.”

There’s something to her argument, and the way Trump has treated the party’s grandees over the years shows his impatience, to say the least, with the norms and formalities of political life, including the elaboration of his own political beliefs. 

And yet he never could do without Republican supporters and policy ideas. First, there are not enough die-hard Trump voters to bring victory. Despite the emotional bonds connecting him to his most fervid voters — “love” is how they often describe it — Trump needs the support of lots of independents and Republicans who are just not that into him personally.

Second, the Trump agenda was never well prepared and thought through. To his own enthusiasms it added orthodox GOP thinking about tax cuts, judges and deregulation. Trump made the resulting mix his own, however, and those policy commitments formed a working definition of Trumpism: economic protectionism, “internal improvements” or infrastructure spending, immigration reduced and tied to assimilation, a modest foreign policy mindful of the national interest, low taxes, judges willing to enforce the constitutional limits of legislative power and a patriotic civic culture. 

This is a very old-fashioned Republican policy mix, adapted, in effect, from the party of Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge. In a surprising way Trump led the GOP back to its roots before World War II, back to when it was, not entirely coincidentally, the majority party.

Most of these new (old) policy emphases will, I think, outlast him and his administration. Trumpism has a future, even without Trump’s continuing political presence; indeed, it’s possible it may have a brighter future without him with fresh political talent like Tim Scott, Tom Cotton, Mike Pompeo, Kristi Noem and others.

Trump’s combative, irreverent, original style is not replicable. But the essential element of his political manner that needs to cross to the movement he has led is the courage he shows in confronting political correctness, cancel culture and the scorn of progressive censors. His successors cannot afford to lose his wonderful effrontery in opposing, for example, the continuing ideological purges of American history and heroes.

The fate of the political movement Donald Trump led, and hopes to lead again, will depend on being able to preserve that spirit of patriotic indignation from the spirit of lawlessness unleashed at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Charles R. Kesler is editor of the Claremont Review of Books, from which this has been adapted.

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Opinion

America’s elites are waging class war on workers and small biz

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America’s elites are waging class war on workers and small biz

In America, class warfare is often disguised as culture war, and culture war is often cloaked by talk of race. But underneath it all, the class warfare is still there. Whether accidentally or intentionally, America’s upper classes seem to wind up harming the working class and small businesses, always in the name of some high-minded cause.

On immigration, for example, the go-to move is to call people who object to open borders racists and nativists. But what’s behind it? As Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein commented: “A tight job market pressures employers to boost wage offers . . . One equally surefire way to short-circuit this useful dynamic is to turn on the immigrant spigot every time some group’s wages go up.” Immigration as a way of keeping working-class wages down.

Likewise, efforts to defund police or de-police neighborhoods are treated as anti-racism, but their actual, predictable effect is to make poor and working-class neighborhoods much less safe, in order to make wealthy woke activists feel good about themselves. Similarly, Anthony Lukas’ classic book, “Common Ground,” told the story of how wealthy white activists placed most of the burden of desegregating Boston’s public schools on poor black and white families, while those behind the policies retreated to leafy suburbs, far from the problems they had created, or made worse.

Now a report in The New York Times captures a microcosm of the class war that race-talk obscures. A black student at Smith College reported being abused because she was black, saying she was treated as if she didn’t belong on campus by a white janitor and campus police officer. Her complaints produced a speedy apology from Smith (“We always try to show compassion for everyone involved,” said Smith President Kathleen McCartney) and mandatory sensitivity training for staff, as well as — ironically — the creation of all-black and minority dormitories. As part of the anti-bias training, the school’s blue-collar employees, the Times reports, “found themselves being asked by consultants hired by Smith about their childhood and family assumptions about race, which many viewed as psychologically intrusive.” 

Then an outside investigation determined that, basically, it never happened. The campus police officer, the janitor and a cafeteria worker had been falsely tarred as racists, but they were not the beneficiaries of apologies, “compassion for everyone involved” or anything else. 

“Check your privilege” is a common term around higher education, but the notion that white janitors, cafeteria workers and campus police are “privileged” in that environment is not simply absurd, but monstrous. As Smith janitor Mark Patenaude told the Times, “We used to joke, don’t let a rich student report you, because if you do, you’re gone.”

Privilege is the ability to get an employee of many years punished simply by making a complaint, even a false one.  

Universities, and especially the woke parts of universities, speak of race more than class. And as the Smith incident illustrates, they seldom extend the exquisite sensitivities displayed on matters of race to questions of class discrimination. They barely admit such questions exist.

And yet class war rages, even if people don’t want to talk about it. It’s not the Soviet-style class war, with “capitalists” on one side and “workers and peasants” on the other, but rather the educated “gentry class” (as demographer Joel Kotkin calls it) making life tough for the working class.

The gentry class is in firm control of most of the institutions in America, from big corporations, to media organizations, to, most especially, colleges and universities. The Democrats are the gentry class’ party, as the GOP increasingly becomes a diverse coalition of working-class and small-business people. And the gentry class is letting the working class have it.

Barack Obama boasted about driving coal mines into bankruptcy; Joe Biden tells miners they need to learn how to code. There’s talk of forgiving student-loan debt, which would effectively transfer wealth from high-school educated truck drivers to social workers with graduate degrees. Biden’s open-borders immigration policy will once again open the “immigrant spigot” to push working-class wages down. Piling ruin upon ruin.

And just as at Smith, they don’t care who’s hurt, so long as they can strike a pose. Is all this accidental? Or is it the product of hostility toward what Hillary Clinton called the “deplorables?” On the receiving end, does it really matter?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.

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a crisis of Biden’s own making

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a crisis of Biden’s own making

A crisis is a terrible thing to create. This, nonetheless, is what President Biden has done at the southern border.

His rhetoric during the campaign suggesting an open-handed approach to migrants coming to the US, and his early moves to undo Donald Trump’s border policies, are creating a migrant surge that risks running out of control.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the situation isn’t a crisis, but “a challenge” — an “acute” and “stressful” challenge with some “urgency,” but merely a challenge all the same.

Consider the contours of this challenge. Twice as many people, about 80,000, tried to cross the border illegally in January of this year as compared with January a year ago.

Even though it isn’t peak traveling season yet (that traditionally comes in May and June), the US Border Patrol has already begun releasing migrants into US towns on the border.

Axios reported on a briefing prepared for Biden that warned that the number of migrant kids is on pace to set a record, and there aren’t nearly enough beds to accommodate them.

Biden officials tend to discuss the “push factors,” the conditions that prompt migrants to flee their countries in Central America. But changing those underlying conditions, even if doable, is a long-term proposition. What we have much more direct control over is the “pull factors,” our own policies and practices that create an incentive to come here.

Trump had a number of false starts at the border, but, by the end, had created an entirely reasonable system based on his lawful authorities to impose order at the border. There is no good reason to rip up much of this arrangement, though that’s exactly what Biden has done.

During the pandemic, Trump turned around illegal crossers at the border on public-health grounds. Biden has created an exception for unaccompanied minors, which is an obvious incentive for families to send children under age 18.

Under Trump, the Migration Protection Protocols, also known as Remain in Mexico, ended the practice of letting Central American migrants into the US while their asylum claims were adjudicated.

This was crucial because, under the old arrangement, asylum seekers were allowed in while their claims were considered. Even if the claims were ultimately rejected, as the vast majority of them were, the migrants overwhelmingly ended up staying anyway. This was a huge magnet to migrants — get to the border and claim asylum and you’re in the United States, very likely to stay.

Biden has trashed the Migrant Protection Protocols. No new asylum seekers will be enrolled in the program, and the backlog of people who had been waiting in Mexico are being admitted into the United States.

He’s also suspended the so-called “safe third-country” agreements that Trump forged with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to get asylum-seekers to apply in one of those countries.

The premise of the overall Trump approach was that people who feared for their lives in their home country because of persecution don’t necessarily need to come to the United States to escape. It should be enough for them to go to another country in the region, or if they are indeed applying for US asylum, to stay in Mexico while doing so.

Allowing them into the United States, with no reliable internal enforcement mechanism, constitutes an end-run around our immigration system. Because migrants, like anyone else, respond to incentives, the more who are allowed in, the more will come. And, since our resources aren’t infinite, if enough families show up at the border, it inevitably overtaxes our personnel and facilities.

Even if Biden has different priorities, it makes no sense to create a willy-nilly rush at the border before a supposedly better system is in place (whatever that might be).

Mayorkas blames Trump for having “dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety,” a claim as absurd as the notion that the Biden administration started from scratch on vaccinations.

Trump got a handle on the border, which in 2014 and 2019 had spun out of control. Call it what you will, a crisis or a challenge, but Biden is on a path to heedlessly repeat this experience.

Twitter: @RichLowry

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Anti-Cuomo Johnny-come-latelies and other commentary

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Anti-Cuomo Johnny-come-latelies and other commentary

Conservative: Anti-Cuomo Johnny-Come-Latelies

New York’s liberal political class, including Mayor de Blasio, are turning against Gov. Cuomo and calling for his emergency powers to be revoked — “but why now?” asks The Federalist’s Christopher Bedford. De Blasio and others cite Cuomo’s withholding of nursing-home death data, but “that fact, you might notice, has been in the media spotlight for weeks now,” and outlets led by The Post have been probing the issue for nearly a year. The left cites the recent sexual-harassment allegations against the gov, “which are indeed terrible. . . . But what about spending months lying and blaming others for 15,000 deaths in vulnerable elderly care facilities? Was that not enough to immediately end emergency authorities when it was exposed and then admitted?”

Media watch: The ‘Invented’ Andrew Narrative

At The Daily Beast, Ross Barkan wonders what “took so long” for the press to wake up on Andrew Cuomo. A year ago, pundits and reporters elevated the gov to “hero” status, failing to ask why “he kept comparing coronavirus to the flu and insisting that ‘fear’ was more dangerous than the virus itself” as the pandemic began. Or why he “dismissed the idea of shutting down New York City as late as March 17,” simply because “his nemesis, Bill de Blasio,” suggested it first. But “reporters crave narratives” and opted to cast Cuomo as the “foil” to the dark President Trump. Leave that tactic to fiction: “Novelists invent; reporters report.” The same media are now introducing “Cuomo the Consummate Creep,” but “it should’ve happened a lot sooner.”

Foreign Desk: A Transformed Middle East

In The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman considers the early fruits of President Donald Trump’s Abraham Accords, such as: “In the middle of a global pandemic, at least 130,000 Israeli tourists and investors have flown to Dubai and Abu Dhabi since commercial air travel was established in mid-October.” And: “A new Hebrew language school that holds classes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has been swamped with Emiratis wanting to study in Israel or do business there.” In short, “tourists, students and businesses” are now driving “the openings between Israel and the Gulf States.” If it keeps up, “we are talking about one of the most significant realignments in modern Middle East history” — with Israel and its new allies standing out for no longer “letting the past bury [the] future.”

Conservative: Amazon Suppresses Black History

During Black History Month, Amazon’s streaming service removed “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” a documentary showing the justice’s “rise from poverty in segregated Georgia to Yale Law School and, eventually, to the Supreme Court,” reports The Wall Street Journal’s Jason L. Riley. With “plenty of demand these days for positive assessments of black conservatives,” this is just the latest proof that “one of the country’s most popular streaming services is ambivalent about showcasing them.” “Wittingly or not, Amazon has used its power to abet” the growing effort to expunge from history those “more focused on black development than on black victimhood” or “more interested in the results of a policy than in its intentions.”

2024 Watch: Trumpism Without The Donald?

Ex-President Donald Trump remains enormously popular with the GOP’s populist base — so, observes The Washington Post’s Marc A. Thiessen, “it was stunning that when Trump’s most fervent supporters were asked whom they would support in 2024 if Trump were running, only 55 percent said they would vote for the former president.” That bare majority suggests that almost half of the base wants “someone else to carry the banner of Trumpism into the next election. . . . It’s a grudging recognition by many of his most ardent loyalists that, despite their adoration of him, there might be better candidates to advance his ideas.” With four years to the next election, much is in flux; the only certainty is that “it is highly unlikely” an anti-Trump Republican will win the GOP nomination.

_— Compiled by The Post Editorial Board

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