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Toward a Trump Republicanism

Michael Barone on

What you heard most of was nationalism. To some Democrats, including many in the chamber, that sounds like Adolf Hitler's national socialism. To those who realize that we have no political prisons full of reporters and less government surveillance of the press than in the Obama administration, it sounds more attractive.

Trump did, appropriately, pay more tribute than usual to Americans' engagement in the world and aid to foreigners. But his repeated theme was that he will always serve Americans first -- such Americans as the heroes in the gallery whom he spotlighted with grace.

So though Trump Republicanism has elements of other party traditions, its dominant tone is nationalist. That puts the Democratic Party, now suffused with Trump hatred, in danger of positioning itself as anti-nationalist. The withering contempt of many coastal Democrats for heartland Americans who regard patriotism as normal and benign is probably not a political asset.

Two other issues mentioned briefly in the State of the Union address have the potential to move his party away from Bush's. One is his daughter Ivanka's proposal for family and medical leave, something free market Republicans have usually spurned.

Democratic versions of this feature yet another Great Society bureaucracy and new taxes on businesses. Trump Republicans might embrace the proposal of lawyer Kristin Shapiro and the American Enterprise Institute's Andrew Biggs to allow parents to finance leaves through early withdrawals from Social Security in return for delayed retirement. As with Social Security retirement, recipients would arguably be paying something for what they get.

The second issue is infrastructure, on which Trump called for $1.5 trillion in spending. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pre-emptively attacked the public-private financing Trump is said to support. But public-private financing has been enormously successful abroad, whereas Schumer's preferred system, The New York Times reports, has produced subway tunneling costs per mile that are seven times the average of the rest of the world.

The State of the Union address probably won't elevate Trump's low job approval rating. But competition between Trump Republicans and Democrats wedded to socialism and a religiously intense secularism may not turn out the way the latter would like.

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Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

Copyright 2018 U.S. News and World Report. Distibuted by Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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