The Administration

Don’t call Trump a populist: ‘Trumpism’ is just ‘Republicanism’


Populist: a member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people who are viewed as being exploited by a privileged elite.

Ever since Donald Trump barnstormed across the country, beating out over a dozen other Republicans for the presidential nomination, political pundits and journalists have described his campaign and ultimate win as a “populist insurgency.” There is no doubt his rhetoric often seemed populist. While railing against the establishment, he promised to “drain the swamp” and be the president for “forgotten men and women.”

{mosads}But he’s no longer a candidate. He’s president, and his policy decisions and proposals are, for the most part, ripped straight out of the Republican Party’s playbook of tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation and attacks on government. Trump’s starved budget, along with his first 100 days of governing, represent more of the same old Republican ideology: afflicting the afflicted and aiding the affluent.


It’s time we judge Trump on his actions, not his words.

Let’s start with health care reform. Trump ran on the premise that ObamaCare was a failure and needed to be repealed — putting him squarely in alignment with the House Republicans who voted to repeal the law over 60 times during Obama’s presidency. Now, with a governing majority, the so-called populist should have had no problem achieving that repeal and acting on his campaign promise that every American would have health insurance and at a lower price.

Not even close.

Not only did The Affordable Health Care Act, or “TrumpCare,” die before even reaching the House floor, the failed bill was little more than a gigantic tax cut for health care companies and the affluent masquerading as health care reform. And about 24 million people will keep their healthcare now that it has been defeated.

Then look at the Trump administration’s first budget blueprint, because as former Vice President Joe Biden once famously said, “Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” In order to build up our nation’s already enormous military capacity by $54 billion, Trump proposes slashing every other area of government spending, proposing to ax programs like Meals on Wheels, after school programs and eliminating entire agencies like the Appalachian Regional Commission, which helps hard-hit rural areas revive themselves economically. And there’s the proposal to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

These government agencies provide vital cultural and educational opportunities for working class kids, whose only opportunity to visit a museum, learn an instrument or watch an educational program is often through these publicly-funded initiatives. The only time I went to a museum was through my school growing up — it was a gift to appreciate beauty that otherwise was inaccessible for my family. A full one-third of NEA funding serves low-income audiences and 40 percent of NEA activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Then there’s the rollback of financial regulations signed under the Obama administration. After meeting with Wall Street executives, Trump said, “We expect to be cutting out a lot of Dodd-Frank…” This is the law that was passed after the second greatest financial collapse in United States history, to protect millions of working class people — white, black and brown. Many of those individuals and families lost their homes and their jobs as a direct result of greedy behavior by Wall Street banks — banks led by the same billionaires who Trump has since called on to stock his Cabinet.

Trump also hopes to rescind important worker benefits that would give four million more workers access to overtime pay — greatly increasing the earning power of today’s working class and restoring the sanctity of a 40-hour work week. Recently he also repealed legislation requiring companies who earn government contracts to disclose safety violations and develop plans to address them.

So if there’s a theme to the first 100 days of Trump, it’s that he’s nothing more than a typical right-wing politician — and an ineffective one, at that — doing the bidding of the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. His campaign for president represented little more than the cynical deployment of a well-worn Republican strategy: whip up white resentment toward immigrants and people of color in order to build a governing agenda that enriches the most privileged among us.

Make no mistake: Trumpism is Republicanism, just a tad more explicit in its strategic use of race to fulfill a decades-long political journey toward plutocracy. It most assuredly isn’t populism.

Tamara Draut is Vice President of Policy and Research at Demos Action and author of the book, “Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America.” Follow her on Twitter @tamaradraut.

The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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