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100 Days of Trump: How President Trump will make populism great again

‘Oh no, another liberal’ I often think to myself when listening to commentators on TV talking about politics today.

Face it, our word choices almost instantly betray our ideological leanings. A lot of times the Democrats come out in unison using the same or similar terminology to describe their opposition to a conservative policy or politician – phrases like “favors the rich” or “would deprive women of healthcare.” These talking points seem to Trump Oval Officeoriginate from a central source. Either that or liberals are pre-programmed to spout the same words.

One of my favorites that they use is “pay for tax cuts,” as if Republicans should present a credit card as the price for lowering a tax rate. Democrats are good at that – namely, providing imagery to paint a false picture in someone’s mind about what will happen if policies suddenly change.

Last year’s election introduced another item into the American political vernacular – “populist.” The concept of populism isn’t new, of course, but the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders brought it back into vogue. These days the media goes out of its way to depict “populism” as a bad thing -- you know, tyranny of the majority or something. If a politician ever advocates doing things according to the popular will of the people, that means he must favor some group over another.

Majorities are mean spirited, right? Deep down everyone’s a racist, misogynist, homophobe – all those awful things liberals swear the small-minded learn from attending church too often. Hillary Clinton even gave us a name – “deplorables.” Half of Trump’s supporters were plastered with the label by the Democrat nominee.

Well, we all know how the story ended. The “deplorables” masses came out in force and Trump’s populism prevailed. The populists beat the ideologues.

But can “populism” coexist with limited government conservatism?

Senator Mike Lee thinks it can. Phillip Wegmann and Timothy P. Carney of the Washington Examiner report, “The populist wave now crashing on Washington threatens to permanently maroon conservatives. Many of the Right's critics and fans alike saw Donald Trump's dominance in the Republican primary as a rejection of movement conservatism. Sen. Mike Lee sees it differently.

“’I certainly don't see it as a rejection of the conservative movement,’ Lee said in an editorial board meeting with the Washington Examiner. Trumpism ‘is distinct in some ways from [conservatism], but there are parts of it that are entirely consistent with the conservative message.

“’And most of it, I think,’ Lee added, ‘can be made consistent with the conservative movement.’”

Lee appears to tab Trumpism right on, not bad for a guy who just a few months ago was warning everyone within earshot about how awful Trump would prove to be. Though not exactly part of the #NeverTrump movement – officially at least -- Lee still served as a figurehead for every establishment Republican or wayward conservative who was positive Trump would be a disaster if he won the election.

Some “conservatives” are still insisting Trump will ruin conservatism. Erick Erickson did it again just last week.

Lee no longer thinks so. Neither do most of the conservatives I’ve talked with.

And neither does Senator Rand Paul, who during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday said what Trump is doing is actually good for conservatives. “[T]here are two levels you can analyze this administration on. One, words and Twitter, another on actions. And I tend to look at the actions. And like I say, I have my quibbles here and there with things that are said and yet I'm really pleased that we repealed a regulation that was going to be very, very damaging to my state.

“The regulation. I went to the White House this week to see him sign. The repeal would have cost 77,000 jobs in the coal industry. So, I'm very, very happy, that would have never happened probably under half a dozen other Republican nominees.

“So, I mean, not everyone is perfect, but I think there's a lot of good things. And we shouldn't lose sight of the good things from a conservative point of view of what's happening in Washington.”

Yes indeed. Every time Trump wanders off topic and says something that makes you wonder “is that really accurate?” you have to remember the actions behind the words are really what’s important. Trump’s policies have benefitted conservatives immensely already because he gives us an opportunity to use them, even if disguised in populist rhetoric.

If the Wizard of Oz said “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” you know that’s where the action is. And in the Trump administration, the president may be providing the entertainment by blasting the media on the screen yet his pen is doing most of the talking “behind the curtain.”

And that’s where the “action” should be. In the Lee interview above, Lee said populism and conservatism are inherently compatible because the outcomes that the People want – better opportunities, less government interference in their lives, protection of their rights – are more attainable under conservative policies.

The Washington Examiner writers wrote, “Conservatism, to thrive in the age of Trump, needs to become a ‘conservatism for the forgotten man.’

“’The forgotten man,’ Lee said at the Washington Examiner office, ‘is the man or the woman who works hard every day to put bread on the table to feed his or her family and to be a good citizen.’ He is ‘neither the Wall Street fat cat nor the immediate beneficiary of a government program designed to help the indigent.’

“It seems to work this way: First, the populist president identifies the problems facing forgotten men and women — those citizens from flyover country too often overlooked by coastal elites. Then, a conservative Congress provides the solutions. ‘The principles themselves,’ Lee said, ‘they don't have to change.’”

Lee has hit on something here, namely that populism and conservatism can coexist peacefully because the key to good governance is through conservatism.

Rush Limbaugh is a “populist” and a “conservative.” So is Sean Hannity and most conservative media personalities. The Constitution itself is a populist document because it pits the centers of government all against each other to preserve the power of the People.

“Populism” on balance is a good thing in an informed and moral society (which admittedly excludes at least a third of the American public). Likewise, conservative policies, if implemented, would be popular. Trump provides the chance to see how the theories work in practice.

Millennials taking a show-me-don’t-tell-me attitude towards the new administration

It’s a safe bet we’ve all seen a great deal of what the Millennial generation supposedly thinks of President Donald Trump. All you have to do is turn on a TV news show and there will undoubtedly be footage of all the protests taking place on college campuses these days.

For those of us who’ve been out of college for a while, those young people sure look out of touch with reality. But they’re also the ones who will be voting for the next generation of American leaders.

Which begs the question: is it hopeless for conservatism?

Not necessarily. Red Alert Politics’ Ron Meyer writes in the Washington Examiner, “Will young citizens get more conservative as they age? Can Trump help bring more young voters into the GOP? Or will young people be scared away from the party by Trump's controversial style?...

“Millennials who serve in elected office, work in Washington think tanks, talk on television and lead activist groups can try to tell the president what his millennial agenda should be for the next four years. Ultimately, it is up to his administration to listen...

“For young Republicans, they are ready to fight for new policies. But for now, they are waiting for action from The Donald.”

Meyer’s article quotes a number of people offering suggestions on what Republicans can do to win favor with the Millennial generation. Apparently Trump ended up winning 37 percent of the young folks’ vote despite many polls showing his support would be closer to 25 percent (were Millennials afraid to reveal their preferences to the pollsters?).

Nevertheless, it will take action to convince Millennials that Trump is as good as his word. With the media typically slanting the news against the new president, it will be a challenge.

But at the end of the day, the concerns of younger voters really aren’t all that different than any other age group. They’re concerned about the affordability of healthcare, finding good jobs, reforming entitlements for long-term viability and paying for college.

Not all of these things are going to be – or should be – solved by actions from the federal government, but here’s yet another area where a little “populism” could be helpful. Obama and the Democrats made an awful lot of promises to young people that weren’t kept. During the Obama years their healthcare costs doubled, their student debt piled up considerably and the economy just didn’t produce enough good paying jobs to allow them to achieve the American Dream.

It’s hard to count yourself as successful when you’ve got a faded Obama/Biden “Hope and Change” poster in your basement bedroom right above your parents’ old dresser.

Instead of catering to the younger demographic, Trump and the Republicans simply need to institute policies that will grow the economy and protect individual liberties. You know, the stuff politicians are supposed to do.

The rest will take care of itself. The campus radicals will eventually run out of steam…and money.

One last point: The tumultuous “free love” sixties was supposed to usher in a new generation of voters who were fed up with conservative traditional values and Republicans, yet Ronald Reagan enjoyed two landslide elections where he won heavy majorities in not only the Electoral College, but also the popular vote.

Conservatism works. Time is on our side with the Millennials.

Is it time to panic over a lack of good Republican senate candidates for 2018?

Though we’re only a month into the Donald Trump administration, it’s already clear the new president will not be able to count on much support from the “loyal opposition” of the Democrats.

No matter; next year’s Senate elections could provide a wave of reinforcements for Trump. But are Republicans going to have enough good candidates to win those elections?

Lisa Hagen of The Hill reports, “The 2018 Senate cycle presents Republicans with a host of opportunities, but the party has already lost several top-tier candidates to fill the seats.

“GOP Reps. Sean Duffy (Wis.) and Pat Meehan (Pa.) both recently announced that they’ll run for reelection instead of mounting Senate runs in blue-leaning states where President Trump pulled off upset victories.

“Republicans are losing out on potential challengers in safely GOP states, too. Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks ruled out a run. Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke will likely be confirmed to lead the Interior Department, taking a top competitor out of the mix in that deep red state.”

I don’t think you can classify Wisconsin as “blue leaning” any longer, but that’s beside the point.

Though it doesn’t say so explicitly, Hagen’s article implies that potential Republican candidates are bowing out early because they’re afraid to be too closely associated with Donald Trump and therefore would likely lose if they take a chance on climbing another rung up the political ladder.

The thinking goes with all the protests, Trump’s ongoing war against the media and his unrestrained tweeting fingers, all the Republicans are scared to death he’ll be a political pariah in just a year.

Or is it just historic trends that are keeping them away? “Democrats will mostly be on defense in 2018, with 10 of their seats up in states Trump carried. But even with a rough map, the party of the incumbent president historically sees losses during the first two years in office,” Hagen added.

Obama certainly did. The Tea Party wave crashed into the voting booths with a vengeance in 2010. But Trump isn’t Obama and Republican voters aren’t Democrats. If Trump is doing well with Republican constituencies – and so far, so good – I would imagine there will be more than enough credible candidates to run when the time comes.

Of course there’s the ever-present danger the GOP establishment will stick its unwanted nose too far into these otherwise winnable races. Karl Rove is already gearing up to say awful things about conservative candidates, rest assured.

For their part, vulnerable Democrats are trying to perform a balancing act. Rebecca Berg of Real Clear Politics reports, “Ten Democratic senators will face re-election fights next year in states where Trump won; of those, five hail from states where he won by double digits. But with their party base screaming for blood, those incumbents could find themselves swimming against the partisan tide in both directions, torn between working with Trump or denouncing him...

“The idea of bipartisan outreach wouldn’t seem so bold regarding any other administration. But Democrats have firmly rejected Trump from the outset — with protests and angry constituents at town-hall meetings harkening back to the Tea Party movement in 2009 and 2010, which propelled Republicans to historic gains in Congress.”

This myth of the “red state Democrat working with Trump” is a joke. Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, for example, knows he has no other choice but to go along with Trump’s agenda and there are others who are putting up a public façade by claiming they’ll work with him in areas where they can agree.

If they’re true Democrats, those areas will be few and far between. And Republican voters aren’t stupid; they understand they’ll have better choices than these Democrats in 2018.

Here’s guessing there will be plenty of quality Republican contenders next year. It will be a great opportunity to boost Trump’s agenda once again.

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