With each incoming administration, the deck chairs change, but usually the ship sails on course. New administrations have been unlikely to completely overturn their predecessors’ policies–until now. “We’ve gone from hard left, under Obama, to hard right, under Trump,” Victor Davis Hanson reminds readers of NRO.
Whatever Donald J. Trump’s political past and vociferous present, his first year of governance is most certainly as hard conservative as Barack Obama’s eight years were hard progressive. We are watching a rare experiment in political governance play out, as we go, in back-to-back fashion, from one pole to its opposite.
From January 2009 to January 2016 (especially when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress until January 2011), Barack Obama implemented the most progressive agenda since Franklin Roosevelt, to whom his supporters logically compared their new president.
Obama was a genuine man of the Left, determined to move his party with him and “fundamentally transform” the country. … Third-way Clintonism all but disappeared. The Democratic party was reborn in Obama’s leftist image. Even candidate Hillary Clinton all but renounced her husband’s now caricatured centrism.
Over eight years, Obama had institutionalized, to the degree any president can, his left-wing agendas.
Then came the unforeseen nomination, election, and governance of Donald J. Trump.
Donald Trump, the Manhattan millionaire, with his mercurial temperament and reality T.V. persona, was the unlikely conservative rebel. Trump was determined “to govern as conservatively as Obama had progressively.”
Tax reform and reduction, conservative judges and cabinet heads, stepped-up energy production, deregulation, a new realist and deterrent foreign policy, and immigration recalibration have happened in President Trump’s first 11 months. The question to be answered, writes VDH, is will these reforms “grow the economy in ways that the prior administration could not, make America stronger and the world safer in a way the prior administration could not, and redirect American culture and values back in a more traditional direction”? Or, will they not?
To those who think that Trump’s personality makes him an unrepresentative avatar of conservatism, his supporters would say, “Persuade us that better conservative messengers could have been elected in 2016 America — and that they would have governed to the right of Trump in his first year.” Like it or not, Trump turned out to be a hard-core conservative, and yet one whose rhetoric, comportment, and feistiness appealed to people who had never before voted for hard-core conservative agendas.
Barack Obama’s unapologetic progressivism did not lead to an “economically robust and growing America, one safer abroad in a more secure world, and more cohesive, united, and stable at home.” It remains to be seen if President Trump’s conservatism will deliver “what conservatism has always promised: greater prosperity, security, and unity.”
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