Trump’s Working Class Agenda Remaking GOP in Economic Nationalist Mold

President Trump speaks at U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works steel mill in Illinois on July 26, 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s working class agenda has upset the established order of things inside the Republican Party, remaking the GOP into a workers’ party.

The president’s effort, as the Washington Post reported this weekend, hit a fever pitch in 2019. The campaign by the president to remake the GOP into a working class party is all-encompassing, and focuses on virtually every single policy front.

the Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein wrote:

President Trump shattered Republican orthodoxy on an extraordinary range of economic policies in 2019, setting up a more populist record for him to tout during a 2020 campaign in which Democrats already are accusing him of abandoning working people. From trade to spending, from the Federal Reserve to paid parental leave, Trump has embraced policy changes that historically are more in line with the approach of Democrats — establishing a forceful role for government in setting the terms of the economy — than of Republicans.

Stein continues in the Washington Post piece by describing just how “striking” is Trump’s “break with” traditional libertarian-esque GOP orthodoxy that has dominated the Republican Party since the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. Stein wrote:

On trade, Trump has reached a ‘phase one’ trade deal with China that reportedly includes promises to buy far more in U.S. exports. He has completed a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada that some liberals are cheering for labor protections and pharmaceutical policies. Trump co-opted a demand from the left to urge the Fed to cut interest rates despite the relatively strong economy, a position the central bank ultimately adopted after seeing signs the economic expansion might waver. The president has blown away traditional GOP concerns over the rising federal deficit, cutting bipartisan deals to expand government spending and even extend a new paid-leave benefit to the federal workforce. He unilaterally implemented a farm bailout that could prove more expensive than the auto bailout was a decade ago — a move that conservatives had criticized as wasting taxpayer dollars. And while takiPeter ng action against former president Barack Obama’s health-care law in court, the Trump administration has avoided moves to immediately blow up the law while pushing to allow states to import cheaper prescription drugs — a longtime liberal position opposed by many Republicans.

The piece later quotes Trump’s trade adviser in the White House, Peter Navarro, explaining the shift:

Trump’s unique brand of populism is essentially an economic nationalism based on an ‘America First’ perspective, applied to both domestic policies and the international trade arena. This revolution has repositioned the Republican Party into the party of the working class.

This Washington Post piece from Stein is hardly the only evidence of Trump’s hard break with a traditional GOP economic agenda in favor of a more economic nationalist populist agenda that pulls together some priorities from both Republicans and Democrats.

The president’s biggest economic win in 2019, the House passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, came after a year of stalling by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but with broad bipartisan support–and backing from top labor unions like the AFL-CIO and an endorsement from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who made clear this is the first trade agreement he has ever supported.

When the USMCA eventually passes the U.S. Senate, as it is expected to do early in 2020, it will completely remake the trade structure on the North American continent that has been in place since the mid-1990s as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump’s shredding of NAFTA in favor of the much-more labor-friendly USMCA, in addition to being a top promise from his 2016 presidential campaign, is part of a broader remaking of the economic agenda of Republicans in a way that Trump’s former Attorney General and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions has said could be a pathway to generational dominance for the GOP, should Republicans follow through on this path that Trump is leading them down.

Sessions, who is running again for his old seat in the U.S. Senate and leading polling there in Alabama, said in a November interview with Breitbart News that the GOP could dominate for generations if the party embraces the working class agenda that President Trump has put forth.

“I’m going to push the Republican Senate conference hard,” Sessions said. “And I’m going to push the House Conference. The American people want a lawful system of immigration. They want to protect the national interest of the United States. They’re not globalists. They want us to protect American manufacturing interests against global trade competition. China is the worst offender. We have this monumental trade deficit with China. So, also, the world is always wanting the United States to join some organization in which other people get to vote on what should happen around the world, and then we’re expected to support what they vote for. This is why the Brits want to Brexit, and to get out of the E.U. because the E.U. has taken over their sovereignty.”

In addition to Sessions’ November interview, Fox News host Tucker Carlson–the anchor of Tucker Carlson Tonight which airs weeknights in primetime on the Fox News Channel–told Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel this weekend that President Trump has overseen a shift inside the GOP that he says is not even happening “fast enough.”

“Trump showed up in his instinctive way, he could smell all of this—he couldn’t always articulate it, but he could feel it,” Carlson said. “And he shows up and he’s basically like ‘the people in charge are doing a completely crappy job and they don’t care about you and they’re not meeting your basic needs.’ The expressions of that were immigration and trade and a couple of other things, but really that’s what it was about. The people in charge didn’t care about the country and the country was rotting. I think the realignment is really a response to that. It’s not just about Trump and they think he’s obnoxious or whatever—okay, it’s way deeper than that. They’ve been caught. They’ve been exposed as fraudulent. They haven’t done anything for the country. Like, how have you improved America? They haven’t, actually. And they’ve presided over its decline. They should be punished, and they are being punished—and thank God for that.”

As with any major political realignment, the moves by Trump have caused some serious waves in the rank-and-file of the party. In fact, as of early December, a whopping 43 percent–nearly half–of Republicans who were in office in the U.S. House since Trump was inaugurated have left office either by choice or by force.

But, as new blood comes flowing into the party with younger candidates and fresh lawmakers replace the old ones, Trump is embracing the major shifts inside the party that is now undoubtedly his Republican Party. And in speeches like his address to the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in South Florida this month, Trump has hammered home his argument that Republicans are the party of working families–and Democrats are not:

Democrats even sense that this is a serious problem for their electoral cause in 2020, with top Democrat presidential candidates like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders out publicly claiming that Trump has let down the working class:

Other leftists, like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, keep making that case too:

But the concern from Democrats that Trump may be cutting deeper into their traditional base than he did in 2016, peeling off more union workers and other working class traditional blue collar Democrats, has top Democrats “alarmed,” according to the Washington Post‘s Stein.

Stein quotes Democrat pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners as warning Democrats to take this shift Trump has overseen inside the GOP seriously:

Typically, Republicans offer things like the deficit and the stock market — the upscale economic agenda — but Trump is trying to include the semblance of a working-class economic agenda. It isn’t real when you look underneath the hood, but it sure looks real, absent an alternative.

Stein also later quotes Pippa Norris, a political scientist at Harvard, saying that the populist economic trends that Trump is leading here in the United States and the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson is leading across the pond are a “global phenomenon” that cuts across traditional party or ideological lines.

“Populist forces are a global phenomenon,” Norris said. “They cut across the traditional left-right cleavage. Many populists aren’t traditional free-market neoliberals or fiscal conservatives in their economic policies.”

Leftist filmmaker Michael Moore, who fashions himself a champion of the working class from the political left, has predicted this month that President Trump would win re-election again in 2020 if the election were held now–and that it would be an even starker rehash of the 2016 race in that he thinks the Democrat would again win the popular vote by higher margins than Hillary Clinton did last time, but that Trump would again win the electoral college thanks to working class support the president has won over.

Moore told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman:

I think if the election were held today — Hillary won by 3 million popular votes. I believe whoever the Democrat is next year is going to win by 4 to 5 million popular votes. There’s no question in my mind that people who stayed home, who sat on the bench, they’re going to pour out, in California, New York and — you know, but also in Texas and whatever, I mean, places that Trump will probably win, but, yeah, there’s going to be a much higher percentage of people voting against him. The problem is, is that he will — if the vote were today, I believe, he would win the electoral states that he would need, because, living out there, I will tell you, his level of support has not gone down one inch. In fact, I’d say it’s even more rabid than it was before, because they’re afraid now. They’re afraid he could lose, because they watched his behavior. So they are voracious in their appetite for Donald Trump. That’s the bad news.

A bigger question than how these remarkable policy changes for Republicans will affect the presidential race–America has already seen that one time in 2016, a trend that even leftists like Moore seem to admit will repeat itself if not intensify–is how this may affect down-ticket races. In other words, it remains to be seen if President Trump can carry coattails for other Republicans in House, Senate, and gubernatorial races.

In some places in 2019, like governor’s races in Kentucky and Louisiana, Republicans lost to Democrats–in Louisiana, incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards won re-election, while in Kentucky incumbent GOP Gov. Matt Bevin lost to now Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear. But in Mississippi, Trump helped Republican Tate Reeves across the finish line, holding off Democrat Jim Hood.

Back in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats won a number of House seats, retaking the majority from Republicans for the first time in eight years–but on the U.S. Senate side of things, Republicans won a number of seats from Democrats, taking away from them in key places like Missouri, Indiana, and Florida.

For Republicans to retake the House majority in 2020, they would need to win back a net 18 seats from Democrats. There are currently 30 districts that Democrats represent but Trump won in 2016, and another dozen to 20 or so other seats considered battlegrounds, so the question is whether the GOP can field strong enough candidates in enough places to flip the majority alongside the president at the top of the ticket.

Democrats, going into the 2020 congressional elections, will likely attempt to claim they have been responsible for helping the president move toward this nationalist economic agenda, but Republicans will correctly point out in response that the vast majority of the Democrats in the House spent all of 2019 impeaching President Trump while the president was making all of these significant economic shifts for the country.

And while the Democrats in the House were so laser-focused on impeachment, the president’s economic vision–this nationalist, populist remaking of the GOP agenda–has led to a national jobs boom, where unemployment has reached a 50-year low at 3.5 percent and wages are on the rise, especially among working class Americans.

“The president, since day one … has been working hard to make sure that American families — the American people — are at the center of this administration, and what we are trying to achieve, and we’ve seen that in the economy. … We’ve seen that in our new trade agreement, the USMCA, with South Korea, and with many others. This is a president who has put the  economy and the American people first and foremost in every single one of our policy initiatives,” White House spokesman Adam Kennedy said in a pre-Christmas appearance on Breitbart News Sunday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel.

“One of the things this economy has really been spectacular at is making sure that people who used to be left behind in previous economies — people without college degrees, people who come from more martial backgrounds — have seen some of the biggest gains,” Kennedy added.

The jobs numbers keep on rolling, too, as President Trump has created more than seven million jobs since taking office, according to Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department Monica Crowley, who joined Breitbart News Saturday in early December to discuss the previous month’s jobs numbers. Crowley, during that interview, noted the increase in wages too, and called Trump’s economic successes as president a “blue collar boom.”

“Since the president’s election in November 2016, the economy has added more than seven million jobs,” Crowley said. “This is more than the entire population of Massachusetts last year. It’s also 5.1 million more jobs than the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, projected in its final forecast before the 2016 election. What it shows is common sense economic policies based on freedom work. Tax cuts, deregulation, unleashing the energy sector, and trying to realign international trade—all of which this president promised during the campaign, all of which he has delivered. That, in turn, is delivering us this incredible economy.”


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