Trump Changed the Party of Reagan to the Party of ‘America First’

In a New York Times op-ed, R.R. Reno explains how Donald Trump has redefined the Republican Party from its Reagan-era conservatism to its new populist, nationalist “America First” focus.

As Reno notes, the old Reagan Republican orthodoxy was focused on “small government, an internationalist foreign policy, free trade, and moral and religious conservatism.” That orthodoxy defined the establishment agenda of Republican politicians, conservative columnists, and Beltway think tanks for decades. But the rise of Trump has “revolutionized” the Republican Party and changed “the very terms of the American political divide.”

From Reno’s New York Times op-ed:

[A]s Mr. Trump recognized, the new schism in American life is not about big versus small government, or more or less regulation. It is about immigration, free trade and the broad and deep impacts of globalization on America’s economy and culture. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he told the Republican National Convention.

It is obvious to all but the most blinkered Republicans that with or without Mr. Trump, the Reagan era is over. The conservative-donor and think-tank consensus has been exploded. The next smart, ambitious young Republican politician with national aspirations will not adopt Ted Cruz’s strategy of trying to revive the rotting flesh of Reaganism. He will read out of Mr. Trump’s playbook, attacking globalism rather than big government. And he’ll win, because he’ll be talking about what worries voters.

reaganamericafirst_small Trump Changed the Party of Reagan to the Party of ‘America First’ President

Over time, however, that iteration of Republican conservatism became less salient, in large part because it won. In 1989 we saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. Soon after, Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over. Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street, promoted the further extension of free trade and was a cheerleader for Silicon Valley billionaires. By 2016, only a thoroughly catechized conservative believed Democrats were strangling economic freedom. Democrats have also assumed a large piece of the libertarian mantle, especially when it comes to sexuality and drugs.

Mr. Trump’s shocking success at the polls has done our country a service. Scholars may tut-tut about the historical connotations of “America First,” but the basic sentiment needs to be endorsed. Our country has dissolved to a far greater degree than those cloistered on the coasts allow themselves to realize. The once vast and unifying middle class has eroded over the last generation. Today we are increasingly divided into winners and losers. This division involves more than divergent economic prospects and income inequality. Globalism is an ideology of winners who stand astride our society as it is being remade by dramatic economic, demographic and cultural changes.

Read the rest here.