Trump the populist?

Greg Sargent asks, “Has Trump fallen into Paul Ryan’s trap” with the sort-of premise that Trump ever actually meant any of his populism.  Insofar as being racist and xenophobic and anti-free trade is populist, than yes, Trump is a genuine populist.  On the rest of it, so transparently empty rhetoric.  Sargent:

The story of the morning is that the GOP health plan may be in trouble, because even allies of President Trump are warning him to ditch it before he gets dragged down along with it. The alarm they are sounding is simple: By embracing Paul Ryan’s plan, which would dramatically slash taxes on the richest Americans while massively rolling back coverage for the poorest Americans, he is losing touch with the “populist” message and ideological heterodoxy that helped drive his appeal to working-class voters.

Here’s why this is important: It lays down a marker with which we can evaluate whether Trump is actually governing as the “populist” he telegraphed he would be. If Trump does not cut Ryan’s plan loose, we should theoretically be able to agree that in some key respects, the brand of populism he ran on during the campaign was pure fraudulence — by the lights of his own allies. [emphasis mine]

I mean, seriously, is there any question whatsoever that most of Trump’s populism was pure fraudulence?  Mr. “drain the swamp” populating his appointments with billionaires, Goldman Sachs employees, and Washington insiders?  His transparent support of a tax plan that is a massive redistribution towards the wealthy?  His health care populism of more coverage, better coverage, for less money was never anything but unicorns and rainbows.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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