President Trump’s Strange New Trend: Populist Advisers Out, Populist Policies In
Image Source: White House, Public Domain
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor
Opinion -- Although the media’s efforts to portray the Trump White House as chaotic and divided have largely failed, there is something to be said about the recent departures of his more populist-leaning advisors.
While the firings of Michael Flynn and Anthony Scaramucci can be explained due to separate individual reasons, there is an undeniable trend after the departures of Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. Both men, symbolic of the more nationalist and populist approach that got President Trump elected, seem to have expressed doubt at the future of the Trump Administration. Bannon ominously claimed that the Trump Presidency is “over,” in the sense that “his ability to get anything done, particularly the bigger things, like the wall...it’s just gonna be that much harder.” Similarly, when Gorka resigned, he openly claimed that those “who most embodied and represented” the President’s nationalist and populist policies “have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months.”
This would seem to indicate a shift in the Trump Administration, one that would confirm the worst fears of Trump’s most loyal right-wing base. If the words of these two men and others like them are true, then the fear seems to be coming true that President Trump has somehow been “subverted” by more traditional, globalist thinkers rather than the national populists who share his worldview.
However, in recent weeks there seems to have been a dramatic uptick in the President’s implementation of populist policies, or otherwise moves that signal he is not about to lose the populist influence. The issue at the forefront of this new trend: immigration.
First, there was the controversial pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. This move has definitely not come without controversy; the left claims it is an act of racism, while in actuality it is simply the President doubling down on his promise to enforce illegal immigration, and in this case pardon a man who was facing criminal charges just for doing his job. It’s not hard to imagine that this was probably not a popular move with his advisors.
The second development is the resurgence of rumors that the President is considering killing the Obama executive order known as DACA, or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” A sort of executive amnesty for illegal aliens who came to the United States as children, the program has given amnesty to around 800,000 and is projected to increase that number through eventually legalizing the families of those children. After months of speculation, NBC reports that the President is more than likely going to kill the program immediately rather than letting it die in a pending lawsuit by ten states.
These are both undoubtedly policies that please the President’s populist base, and most likely irk his less populist advisers. Moreover, this is not the first time that the President has gone ahead with a policy that has angered this same class of advisers in order to appease the base. For example, the President’s historic withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords was a move supported almost exclusively by Steve Bannon and EPA Director Scott Pruitt. In opposition to the withdrawal? The President’s two familial advisers, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Elon Musk, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
So then the question remains: If these more populist advisers are not influencing the President’s decision-making, how is he continuing to implement such populist policies? And even more intriguing: Why would these individuals be departing the Trump White House when he is clearly implementing policies they would support?
There are plenty of potential reasons to speculate upon, but one that seems to have been given some credibility is the idea that some of these advisers - while happy about the President’s domestic policies - are not satisfied with the direction of his foreign policy. Gorka plainly cited the President’s recent speech on Afghanistan - announcing several thousand more troops - as a reason for his resignation. If this is the case, then it would appear that some in the populist wing are adamant about their belief that “America First” means a state of near-isolationism, even though a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan would most likely result in chaos just as it did with Iraq.
But perhaps then that shall be the biggest compromise with the Trump Presidency. While he still has every intention of following through on his domestic promises with populist policies at home, his approach to foreign policy might not be the ideal scenario for that same base. However, if this is truly the case, then it is a worthy compromise - one of many that the President will have to make in his tenure.
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