Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States got a white-hot welcome at CPAC on Sunday and delivered a rousing speech heavy on policy.
It was all good.
Yet the larger question of how to square the circle of unity in a now deeply split Republican Party remains unanswered.
I suggest that we try to begin to square that circle by thinking about the question of Republican unity not within the context of the empty rhetoric of a “Big Tent” but rather within the context of a “Venn Diagram” that will help us clearly delineate both the policy points of unity and sharp differences between Trump’s “Make America Great Again” Republicanism and traditional Republicanism.
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Here, it must first be said that one of the great accomplishments of Donald Trump was to transform – no, let me be more precise here – was to BEGIN to transform the Republican Party into the party of blue collar, working class Americans.
While I believe this transformation would likely have been completed by the end of a second Trump term, and the Venn diagram I am about to describe to you would have merged into a circle of unity, that transformation is far from complete.
So what does this Venn diagram look like? Imagine one circle on the left-hand side of a figure that represents what POTUS 45 referred to yesterday as “Trumpism,” a concept firmly anchored by the ideology of Populist Economic Nationalism.
Imagine now a second circle on the right-hand side of the figure that represents Traditional Republicanism equally firmly anchored by the ideology of Elitist Economic Globalism. Flagbearers here are Globalist Senators like Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey called out by POTUS 45 yesterday.
Finally, imagine in this Venn diagram what areas of policy agreement on the economic issues most important to America’s blue collar working classes might be in the area where the two circles intersect.
If you answered “deregulation and tax cuts,” you would be exactly right. As POTUS 45 said yesterday, Trumpism “means low taxes and eliminating job-killing regulations.
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On social issues, you could also certainly throw in pro-life and Second Amendment support – said POTUS 45 yesterday, Trumpism means “very strong protection for the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms.” And the principles of Law and Order and a Strong National Defense would certainly lay within those intersecting Venn diagram circles as well.
Yet, it is where these two circles of Trumpism and Traditional Republicanism do NOT intersect where a bitter war within the Republican Party is now being waged by Trump himself and acolytes and firebrands like Jim Jordan, who got a big shoutout yesterday from the Boss, along with Devin Nunes, Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, Steve Bannon and Raheem Kassam. It is precisely these Populists who are at the front lines in the war against guardians of The Traditional Republican Flame like Mitch McConnell, Liz Cheney, and Kevin McCarthy.
In the Trump Republicanism circle of Populist Economic Nationalism there are the two policies that are synergistically most important to the welfare of America’s blue-collar working classes – fair trade and secure borders.
Yet both of these principles are far outside the circle of Traditional Republican Elitist Economic Globalism, which enthusiastically embraces the counter- and Kool-Aid policies of free trade and open borders.
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Trump Republicans clearly understand that without fair trade, American jobs and factories will continue to be America’s number one export. Without secure borders, America’s blue-collar workers, particularly in low-paying occupations which require the least amount of formal education, will continue to sweat and toil in a Hobbesian world of stagnant wages.
Said POTUS 45 in one of the most important segments of his speech: Trumpism means ” great deals, great trade deals, great ones, not deals where we give away everything, our jobs, money.
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On the other hand, traditional Republicanism is an ideology largely financially supported by large donations from the kind of corporate interests that benefit from offshoring American jobs to the sweatshops and pollution havens of the world.
Many of these corporate interests likewise benefit in their domestic production facilities from harnessing the cheap labor of illegal immigrants, a source of labor supply at the marginalized margin which has the added benefit of depressing real wages of American citizens and thereby boosting bottom lines.
Of course, it was Donald Trump that ripped the Band-Aid off what has been a festering free trade and open borders wound for America’s working classes for decades. While it certainly didn’t hurt to have evangelical Christians and Second Amendment enthusiasts embrace Trump for his pro-life and pro-gun policies, it was Donald Trump’s position on fair trade, and to only a slightly lesser extent his position on secure borders, that closed the deal in 2016 by toppling the Democrat’s Blue Wall.
At this point in time, Donald J. Trump is the presumptive nominee for president in 2024 yet Trumpism is not yet the prevailing ideology of a unified Republican Party.
It will likely be a long road to any such unity but it may well be a road to unity that goes through Beijing.
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As POTUS 45 said Sunday: “We believe in standing up to China, shutting down outsourcing, bringing back our factories and supply chains, and ensuring that America, not China dominates the future of the world.”
Surely even Traditional Republicans can unify around that.
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