I’m a #NeverTrump guy. Donald Trump may be the presumptive Republican nominee for president, but he hasn’t earned my vote and never will. He’s untrustworthy. Given the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton, I choose neither.
But Trump’s agenda – inasmuch as anyone can pin it down – is not as far out as his opponents say.
If Trump is an awful choice for president, at least a solid case could be made for Trumpism. A group of pseudonymous bloggers has been making the case now for months at a site called “The Journal of American Greatness.”
So what is Trumpism? Essentially, it’s “America first.” The writers identify three main planks of a Trumpist platform.
An immigration policy that puts the interests of America and Americans first.
A foreign policy that puts the interests of America and Americans first.
And a trade policy that puts the interests of America and Americans first.
“Trump seems to grasp intuitively something our elites have forgotten or smugly deny: politics is by nature particular,” writes “Decius” in a March post titled “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism.”
What that means is whatever people may claim to believe in the abstract, in the real world most of us recognize the difference between a fellow citizen and a foreigner, or a friend and an enemy. Some people belong; some people don’t. A country that can’t tell the difference won’t last long.
And so Trumpism takes dead aim at some pernicious clichés. Diversity is not “our strength” but rather “a source of weakness, tension and disunion,” Decius writes.
“America is not a ‘nation of immigrants’; we are originally a nation of settlers, who later chose to admit immigrants, and later still not to, and who may justly open or close our doors solely at our own discretion, without deference to forced pieties.”
Moreover, “immigration today is not ‘good for the economy’; it undercuts American wages, costs Americans jobs, and reduces Americans’ standard of living.”
Who would argue with any of that?
Well, lots of people. But for millions of Americans who have lost high-paying manufacturing jobs, or who have struggled with declining wages, or who have seen their savings disappear, those claims resonate.
And by the way, Trump isn’t the only candidate arguing for greater restrictions on immigration and a second look at free trade. It’s been a major theme of democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders’ campaign, too.
Immigration, trade and foreign affairs are all questions of public policy. Policy is not principle. On the contrary, all policies are debatable. And if a majority of the people does not like a policy, it shouldn’t continue.
Bad policy creates strife, and strife is worse for the country than a few struggling markets would be.
Put differently, suppose a father working to support his family decides to cut back on some clients because he’s got an unhappy teenager and a dissatisfied wife. In dropping those clients, he knows he is hurting the long-term economic interests of his family. Is he justified in doing that?
If you are a certain kind of libertarian or conservative, your answer is always “no.” But if you are a sensible human being, you may come up with a different answer.
Sometimes what is in the overall economic interest of the nation is not in the interest of vast numbers of its people.
The U.S. economy – fueled by globalism, free trade and liberal immigration policies – has left millions of Americans behind. That won’t do. That’s what a coherent Trumpism would attempt to remedy.
Look, the republic is in dire straits. We’re hobbled by sluggish economic growth, widespread civic ignorance and a general sense that the country is headed in the wrong direction. It’s no wonder people want to blow up the system.
The writers at the Journal of American Greatness have done a good job of identifying what Trumpism is – maybe even better than Trump has done. That’s the problem. If you want Trumpism, you’ll have to take Donald Trump. And that’s a risk many of us are unwilling to take.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.