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Will the Populist Tide Lift All Boats?

Will the Populist Tide Lift All Boats?
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

Dear Reader —

Populism has convulsed our national politics, impacting Left, Right, and Center. And while the tumult of the election season may be over, the resulting ideological fault lines have hardly disappeared. President-elect Donald Trump, who rode this populist wave all the way to the White House, continues to leave Republicans and Democrats scrambling in his wake. What will conservatism and progressivism look like in our emerging, populist era?

Trump’s muscular style of leadership — exemplified by his controversial Carrier deal — and unconventional blend of politics — embodied in his emerging administration — have Republicans debating the future of their party. Some worry that Trump’s approach to the economy is incompatible with the GOP’s historical embrace of free markets, constitutionalism, and the rule of law; others see an opening for a conservative Congress to enact long-sought after reforms and policies; still others wonder whether Trump’s nationalist populism, properly disciplined, might be the glue needed to hold together a fraying GOP coalition, if not our fractured country.

The Democrats, meanwhile, continue to decipher the lessons of their electoral defeat. One thing is clear: The 2016 election forced both parties to confront class divisions that had long been papered over in our national politics. While there is no consensus on the Left about what this means for policy, many progressives agree that the Democratic Party must start by tailoring its message to the working class. The populist wing proposes embracing labor and “outflanking” Trump on protectionism, while the heirs of Clinton and Obama look for an approach that embraces globalization without ignoring middle-class anxieties. It is a sign of our times that even the political Center is increasingly tinged by populist worries.

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past week. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy

*** 

Can Nationalism Create a New Fusionism on the Right? In The Federalist Rachel Lu considers whether Trump’s nationalism will forge a new conservative coalition or devolve into right-wing identity politics. 

The 115th Must Be a Reform Congress. In our own pages, Mark Strand urges the new Republican Congress to enact reforms aimed at restoring the separation of powers and make the legislature more accountable to the people.

Trump Should Follow Nixon’s Lead. Also in our pages, Samuel Hammond suggests that the president-elect should look to an unlikely model for tax and welfare reform.

The Constitutionalism of Crony Capitalism. For Library of Law and Liberty, Greg Weiner argues that Donald Trump’s Carrier deal has worrisome legal and constitutional implications, in addition to its economic consequences.

Infrastructure Investment? Start Small. In National Review, Jonathan Coppage argues that infrastructure investment is a good place to start rebuilding communities across the nation, but cautions that a one-size-fits-all approach will undermine this effort. 

Lesson for Democrats: Back to Class. Writing in The American Prospect, Jeff Faux contends that the Democratic Party’s embrace of neoliberalism paved the way for Trump’s victory, urging Democrats to “look at the economy through the lens of class as well as social identity.”

The Workers Versus Trump. In Jacobin, David Kamper asserts that the only political force now capable of resisting Trump and the Right is organized labor.

The Carrier Deal and Trump’s Challenge to Democrats. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy considers whether Democrats should “outflank” Trump on economic populism or cautiously embrace globalization. 

What Democrats Can Learn from Clinton’s Tragedy. In The Daily Beast, Will Marshall argues that Democrats erred by ignoring the white working class, elevating identity politics, and putting “the mechanics of mobilization” above the art of “political persuasion.” 

The Year Populism Went Mainstream. In The Wall Street Journal, William A. Galston reports on a recent convention of No Labels, a bipartisan organization that promotes cooperation between the political parties, where he sees evidence of populism’s influence on the political mainstream.

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