Yesterday I argued that President Trump’s pivot is real, and it’s spectacular. After Trump’s head-scratching deal with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi which turned the conventional wisdom in Washington upside down, it’s hard to argue otherwise. But let’s be clear about what this pivot is, and what it isn’t. This pivot doesn’t mean Trump will start working with Democrats to get GOP priorities done. That’s absurd. What it means, if applied broadly, is that Trump will dump anything Congressional Republicans favor which represent heavy lift items and instead make his agenda the five to ten most popular things in both parties, with the understanding that the weak-spined GOP will buckle before you, while daring Democrat elites to own the defeat of popular bipartisan ideas in service to their “hashtag resistance” base.
What this amounts to is a triangulation from a position of strength over your own party (technically). It comes from a recognition that the country largely hates the GOP. A combative, populist non-ideological president not hung up on small government budget principles who infuriates the left and says anti-politically correct things and delivers on judges is, as it turns out, what “his own party” wants. The assumption that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell represent some large constituency of Republican voters turns out not to be true.
The fact is that the Republican Party has been the party of Trump for a lot longer than Washington thinks. It has been a politically and socially populist party that was not libertarian in any economic sense for quite some time. Congressional Republicans simply didn’t keep up – they had the illusion that voters who elected them were voting for the things they like. It’s not illogical – “I think like Arthur Brooks and my voters keep electing me; therefore my voters think like Arthur Brooks” – but it turned out to be wrong, and Trump proved that it was wrong.