Liberty Expose: What is Trumpism?


America is not even a year into the Trump presidency and journalists are already writing their obituaries for the Trump administration. The focus of these obituaries is the phenomena of Trumpism, and how Trumpism will continue to plague America’s political posterity.

What exactly is Trumpism? It is not a coherent political philosophy. Unlike the libertarianism of Rand Paul, the conservatism of Ted Cruz, the socialism of Bernie Sanders, and the robotism of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has failed to push any notions that remotely resemble a political philosophy.

It’s obvious that President Trump doesn’t adhere to any political theory that inspire other political actors. If not an ideology, Trumpism might be a governing style. Let’s analyze what President Trump has done in the Oval Office since his election.

Donald Trump has little to show for his domestic agenda. Almost all of what the President promised as a candidate has fallen through on the legislative front. Trump’s promise to repel Obamacare was defeated after GOP legislatures failed to produce a satisfactory replacement option. The President crusaded for immigration reform on the campaign trail, but has yet to make any reforms despite his persistence in making promises.

Currently, the GOP tax plan is at a standstill, and the prospects of it passing are questionable. The only real legislative victory the President has had was the ascension of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court – a fact that fervent Trump supporters in journalism use as evidence for the President’s success. Other than that, Trump has been almost nonexistent on the domestic front.

What about foreign policy? The Trump Doctrine has hardly materialized in the fashion prophesized by journalists and experts. The War in Afghanistan, which on the campaign trail, Trump railed against as a hopeless strategic quagmire to be discontinued, has received a new lease on life as the President has announced an increase in troop numbers.

What of NATO? The grand alliance seemed doomed, at least to those who believed Trump to deliver on his antagonism toward the alliance. Trump repeatedly labeled NATO as obsolete and parasitic while campaigning. However, now that Trump has been elected, the antipathy towards NATO has decreased significantly. As President, Trump has made noises about reforming the Organization and argued for other members of NATO to contribute more to the alliance. In a word, Trump has asked the same as virtually every president before him.

And what about the Asia-Pacific? Like NATO, Trump has criticized American security commitments to the region. Yet, almost a year after President Trump took the oath of office, America has increased its security presence in the region and has put more pressure on North Korea.

The only unconventional route the Trump administration has taken has been in the realm of trade. Unlike his other positions on foreign policy that quickly changed after his inauguration, Trump has remained consistent in his antagonism towards free trade. Almost immediately following his inauguration, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which for its flaws, was designed to combat Chinese hegemony in the region. Trump has made the future of trade in North America uncertain, as he is persistent in his belief that NAFTA is detrimental to American interests, and when the President speaks of free trade, he does so with modifiers and reminders of the downsides of the economic system – the same way leftists speak of capitalism.

However, despite Trump’s ignorance on trade, his actions have hardly made him the Buchananite paleoconservative that he was expected to be – and many in old right hoped he would. While expected to be both an isolationist and a protectionist, Trump has thus far pursued orthodox American security policy. It is only his protectionism which sets Trump apart from the main path of American policy.

So Trumpism is nether a governing philosophy nor a foreign policy doctrine. If the President is truly unique as compared to his predecessors, and if Trumpism is anything, then it’s a rhetorical theory – a form of oratory in the tradition of Cicero and Churchill; except without grace, beauty, inspiration, intellectual rigor, and complete sentences.

The prospects of rhetorical Trumpism surviving the Trump presidency will seem an impossibility. Unless Bernie Sanders tweets of a proposed yuge new welfare program, or Ted Cruz filibusters on totally repelling the sad! Affordable Care Act, then Americans can expect the same generative political linguistics that helped make Trump appealing for many in the first place.  

The reality of the situation is that Trumpism doesn’t mean anything. It is not a political theory, nor is it a governing style – President Trump has shown to have neither. Trumpism has become a provocative newspeak term that describes some of the unappealing aspects of the President’s behavior; a fact that should put anxious minds to rest – Trumpism is attached to Trump. When he leaves the White House, so does Trumpism.

The irony of the Trump presidency thus far is that, for all the hysteria associated with it, there has been no significant changes in policy. American foreign policy remains on a conventional path, no significant domestic policy changes have been made, and much of the Obama era bureaucratic apparatus remains intact.

 If President Trump would divorce himself from his Twitter feed, he would become an almost non-existent entity in the American government. A fact that has compelled congress to retake a stronger stance in governing. All the hysteria and anxiety that journalists have for the Trump administration are for a president who refuses to govern in favor of engaging in Twitter battles. If Donald Trump continues this trend, or if he were to resign today, the legacy President Trump will have will be non-existent. For both good and ill, President Trump has little to show for his first year in office.