Fears among the fringe alt-right movement that Trump is abandoning the right and morphing into a centrist is absurd. He was never on the right to begin with. And neither were they, argues Simon Gordon.
Amid the serious business of the US air strike on Syria, it is faintly ridiculous to watch alt-right purists going into meltdown about it. Yes, the President’s military intervention – albeit very minor – is a departure from what he said on the campaign trail. But the broader argument, now emerging in the alt-right Twittersphere, that Trump is abandoning the right and morphing into a centrist is absurd. Because he was never on the right to begin with. And neither were they.
The alt-right reaction to the Syria bombing is tied up with the removal of ex-Breitbart boss Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. Their man in the White House has apparently fallen out of favour in the ever-fluid Trump court.
Alt-rightists see Jared Kushner and his Goldman Sachs ‘globalists’ infiltrating the administration, at the expense of populist ‘economic nationalists’. Bannon allies – per the Washington Post – claim Kushner is pushing the administration in a ‘Democrat Lite’ direction.
That’s pretty rich though. After all, hasn’t Bannon championed a massive deficit-financed infrastructure splurge by the Federal Government? And attacked the Freedom Caucus for blocking tax-credit-based healthcare reform – because ‘limited government… just doesn’t have any depth to it’? And promoted Trump’s campaign pledge not to cut entitlements? In fact, isn’t his signature ‘economic nationalism’ – i.e. protectionism – just Democrat orthodoxy?
If Kushner and Bannon do diverge politically, theirs is a disagreement between different kinds of Democrat.
Of course, Democrats don’t see it that way. On the questions of identity, with which their party is now obsessed, they see themselves as the antithesis of Bannon.
Yet it is the Democrats’ relentless focus on minority issues that has enabled the GOP to capture parts of the white middle and working class vote. Trump exploited that opportunity more effectively than any other Republican. But he did it – with the alt-right’s help – by borrowing from the Democrats’ playbook.
Aping the left’s identity politics, Trump adopted the alt-right’s cultural narrative around the oppression of white people. Gone was the traditional Republican belief in individual responsibility. In its place came the leftist credo of perpetual victimhood.
On fiscal issues, Trump went further still – taking not just style from the Democrats, but content. The alt-right’s trick was to make Trump, the economic centrist, look like a radical anti-establishmentarian, making him impervious to criticism from the right. That’s what won Trump the primary. But what won him the election – thanks to a few thousand votes in the mild-mannered mid-West – was less pugilistic rhetoric than, well, Democrat-lite economics.
Or, to put it another way: if Trump had combined the anti-immigration stance and even the protectionism with conventional Republican policies on entitlements, Clinton would have had a better shot at winning Rust Belt swing states.
So, the alt-right narrative that Trump is being foiled by Democrats in Republican clothing is, as an American might say, baloney. Because that’s what he – and Bannon – are. That’s how he won.
Trump’s election may have proved Mitt Romney’s point that the proportion of Americans dependent on welfare – the ’47 per cent’ – is now so large that anyone planning to reduce entitlements could never be elected. That should be concerning – not just to the GOP, but to everyone. If unfunded entitlements are not reformed, they will ultimately collapse – tanking the world’s largest economy in the process.
But if fiscal conservatism is somehow to prevail at the ballot box, small-state Republicans might begin by calling out the alt-Right inquisitors for the frauds they are. They’re not the loyalists. They’re the infiltrators.