Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump's White House And Republican Orthodoxy

Steve Bannon is one of Trump's closest advisors.  He has strengthened his position by building a bond with Trump's son-in-law who is also an advisor to Trump.  A new hire in the White House, who worked for Bannon's alt-right fake news site Breitbart News, has raised questions about the direction that Trump might take as he develops his policy agenda.  Bannon has been opponent of the Republican establishment that Trump defeated in his primary campaign.  The new hire from Breitbart News has written critical articles about Paul Ryan who is viewed as the key architect of orthodox Republican policy development.  Bannon and the new hire will direct their attention to motivating and expanding the populist base that helped him to win the primary and the general election.  Trump's chief of staff has focused his attention on building relationships between more traditional Republican leaders in Congress and the more populist wing headed up by Bannon.  Trump's policy directions take twists and turns between these two centers of influence. 

Paul Ryan is responsible for developing the Republican budget proposal in the House.  Like most Republicans he wants to cut taxes, primarily for corporations and the super rich,  and pay for the tax cuts with a reduction in spending on social welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare which account for a major portion of the budget.  Trump promised not to cut Social Security or Medicare during his campaign.  That promise, along with an attack on free trade, helped him to secure his hold on the populist base that was a critical element of Bannon's communication strategy. 

The battle over the ideological direction Trump's policy proposals is really a battle over the future of the Republican Party.  Will Bannon and his allies transform the Party into a populist party like those that are emerging in Europe, or will Trump be able to blend them together.  One of Trump's first moves yesterday was to cut US participation in a trade agreement sponsored by the Obama Administration. That was largely a symbolic message for his populist base since the trade agreement was not supported by many Democrats in the Senate.  We will have to see how Trump's promises to cut the US trade deficit mix with Republican orthodoxy on free trade.

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