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Outsiders vs. Insiders: With Trump’s populism, take the (mostly) good with the (sometimes) bad

It’s safe to say populism is a dirty word in 2018.

Not that it (populism) wasn’t frowned upon prior to this year – it was – but somehow the concept has become especially tarnished of late due to its perceived detachment from ideological principles. If you’re a populist Trump rallypolitician it supposedly means you go along with the impulses of the crowd regardless of the subject and don’t believe in anything of substance.

The dictionary defines populism as, support for the concerns of ordinary people – “it is clear that your populism identifies with the folks on the bottom of the ladder”, and/or, the quality of appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people – “art museums did not gain bigger audiences through a new populism”.

What’s wrong with populism? One could make a good case America was founded on such notions, especially considering the first three words of our governing charter are “We the People.” The United States isn’t “We the Elites” or “We the Learned Oligarchs” or “We the Smartest Folks” or “We the Heirs of the Crown.” Populism is in our red, white and blue blood.

Yet like with everything else populism has its limits. When pandering to the common folk tramples on God-given rights, for example, populism must be restrained.

W. James Antle III wrote at the Washington Examiner, “After President Trump’s first year in office, political observers marveled at how much he governed like a conventional Republican, in substance if not style. But if 2017 was defined by tax cuts, deregulation, conservative judges, and a failed bid to repeal Obamacare; tariffs, trade wars, and the more distinctly ‘Trumpist’ elements of the president’s agenda have become priorities in recent weeks.

“Trump rejected a deal on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that did not enact new limits on family-based immigration and abolish the diversity visa lottery, among other things, even after showing flexibility during a bipartisan White House meeting. His administration unveiled an infrastructure package.

“But the area where Trump has most squarely taken on his own party is tariffs and trade. Trump’s announcement of sweeping new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum clearly caught congressional Republicans off guard. It appears to have knocked top economic adviser Gary Cohn out of the administration while protectionists Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade policy director Peter Navarro are ascendant.”

Antle quotes a couple Democrats who claim to still hate Trump but they admire his willingness to stand up for American workers through imposing higher tariffs. Would such an admission be considered populist?

Liberals love protectionism because it supposedly helps working people maintain their jobs and the union dues flowing into the leaders’ coffers. Trump sees it more as a fairness issue and compelling foreign countries to come to the negotiating table with a clear conscience. Tariffs aren’t “populist” as much as they’re a form of America First nationalism that Trump’s championed since day one. It’s hard for the intellectuals to understand but seen through the prism of the American flag it all makes sense.

Of course everybody likes to talk about trade but perhaps Trump’s biggest “populist” deviations (from conservative orthodoxy) relate to federal spending and his shocking advocacy of denying due process on gun rights. Trade is controversial to be sure but conservatives of all stripes are terrified of sacrificing God-given Constitutional protections in the name of what could be labeled a “teenaged populist” gun control agenda.

You know you’ve got trouble when RINO Senator Jeff Flake called on Trump to “lead” on the congressional gun-grab. Flake takes every opportunity to stab the president in the back when he disagrees with him – such as on immigration – but scampers under the Trump umbrella when it suits him. Flake will be gone from the senate soon enough, but the wishy-washy lack of will in Congress will persist as long as the establishment leadership’s in charge.

So populism is good in some ways and not so good in others. On immigration and trade Trump is simply doing what he swore he’d do during the 2016 campaign. Amnesty seekers (like Flake) and free traders perhaps ignored Trump’s more bombastic boasts on these subjects during his rallies but now that he’s president Trump is turning promises into reality.

The president is doing it in the foreign sphere as well.

Former Trump White House advisor Sebastian Gorka wrote at The Hill, “This commitment to promises made is all the more valid given that the president has minimal respect for the so-called ‘elite’ that has been responsible for all the many policies that have undermined America financially and otherwise in recent decades, from interminable wars in the Middle East to trade deals and international regimes that facilitated the rise of a Communist China which steals our secrets wholesale, intimidates our friends and props up rogue regimes who preach our destruction.

“Simply put, this is the ‘Revenge of Common Sense,’ a characteristic of the new commander-in-chief which appeals to ordinary Americans all over the country, including areas that were long considered Democratic strongholds. The bucking of the establishment and its conventional wisdoms is, in fact, something the president relishes, most particularly when it comes to otherwise indefensible nostrums which have embedded themselves into the collective mind of the body politic.”

Gorka says “Trumpism” is straightforwardly clarified by reading “The Art of the Deal.” It’s a good suggestion considering many are having such a hard time understanding what makes the president tick. Gorka’s is perhaps the best explanation I’ve seen for comprehending why Trump does what he does.

Whereas most politicians from both parties sway to the whims of their interest group lobbyists Trump always returns to what he based his campaign on. It’s arguable Trump’s altered some of his positions in order to get a “deal” – such as offering amnesty and eventual citizenship to the so-called “Dreamers” in exchange for Democrat support for a border wall, ditching the visa lottery and ending chain migration – but in general Trump’s been remarkably consistent down the line.

It’s true Trump’s also given lip service to concepts such as fiscal conservatism and suggested the government spends way too much money, but he also took entitlement spending off the negotiation table early on and displayed a willingness to deal with Democrats to get more dollars for things he's promised – like beefing up the armed forces.

Simultaneously he’s instructed his department heads to cut the federal workforce and tighten up their budgets. In essence federal departments have too much money. I’ve had federal employee friends tell me on numerous occasions they’ve struggled to spend all the dough they’re appropriated lest they “lose” it in next year’s budget.

That’s bad for the taxpayers. There just aren’t enough conservatives in Congress to stop it.

Trump clearly isn’t worried about additional borrowing to get what he wants – funds for the military, more money for border enforcement, more appropriations for airports and roads. Trump isn’t a fiscal conservative in the sense he adheres to a down-the-line philosophy. Trump gives the impression he doesn’t care about deficits as long as his priorities are fulfilled. Perhaps his business background led to his desire to borrow now, pay later and depend on future generations to foot the bill.

At the same time Trump figures he’s saving money by not committing to costly wars and imposing austerity measures like not fully staffing his White House (he’s said some positions would go unfilled). And remember how he got the Air Force One price tag cut by 20 percent?

Trump’s favoring tax cuts is very much a populist idea, but he also likes increasing revenue through tariffs and greatly expanding oil and natural gas production (and the corresponding big boost in royalties). There’s a give-and-take with Trump, always geared towards fulfilling his “populist” promises to the electorate. What’s good for everyone is good for the government too.

No wonder the political class doesn’t get him. 2016 loser Hillary Clinton’s even going overseas these days to demonstrate how ignorant she remains.

Diana Stancy Correll of the Washington Examiner reported, “[Clinton] was asked by India Today editor Aroon Purie over the weekend if Trump was merely the symptom or the disease that has caused things to go ‘wrong’ in America at an event in Mumbai, India. She said racism and sexism played a big role.

“’I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward, and his whole campaign, 'Make America Great Again,' was looking backwards,’ she said. ‘You know, you didn't like black people getting rights, you don't like women, you know, getting jobs, you don't want to you know see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are, whatever your problem is, I'm going to solve it.’

“She pointed out she won the states on the coasts and in Illinois, and said those areas represent a majority of America’s gross domestic product.”

Hillary is correct; she triumphed in places where government is dominant and elites worry about things like banning plastic straws instead of addressing the growing homeless problem (California) or where the budget is in such horrible shape that the state might declare bankruptcy (Illinois). Clinton was most popular in states with corrupt public employee unions and burgeoning public pension problems. Is that what “diversity” brings?

Apparently the rest of the country (according to Crooked Hillary) is motivated only by racism, sexism, homophobia… you know, the “deplorables” who cling to guns and religion and blame losing their jobs on someone’s skin color or sexual orientation. Clinton’s beliefs are like reverse-populism – she protects the elites at the expense of the common folk.

Another anti-populist proposal is to raise taxes, which the Democrats indicated is their intention should they crawl back into power. Roger L. Simon wrote at PJ media, “This proposal, which includes raising the highest bracket and the corporate rate (after years of trying to get it down), plus raising the rates for ‘30 million companies which are organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, Subchapter-S corporations, and LLCs’ not to mention bringing back the alternative minimum tax (a boondoggle for preparers), will end up costing the vast majority of Americans most, if not all, of the money they just got from the Republicans' tax reform bill.

“Call it ‘Away with all crumbs!’

“Only someone as terminally frozen in 1968 as Bernie Sanders, who has emerged as the spokesperson for the proposal, could think of this as anything less than economic suicide. It's not for nothing ol' Bern' took his honeymoon in the former Soviet Union only a year before the wall came down, speaking of deep financial insight.”

The Democrats pretend to be populists through their income redistribution schemes. In effect they want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. They’re not for the common folk – they’re ruling class elites to the hilt.

Populism has indeed become a dirty word but only because Trump’s critics and enemies accuse him of enslaving himself to the will of the masses. Trump’s lack of core principles is problematic at times (guns and immigration) but keeping his campaign promises, on balance, is a good thing.

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