Trump is Reviving American Republicanism

Late on election night, as befuddled pundits finally accepted that Trump, against all predictions, had been elected president, the question arose: “What then should this new Trump party be called?”  Came the puzzled response: “I don’t know you tell me.”

Whereas others entered office prepared merely to give lip service to their campaign promises, Trump intends to keep every single one of his. Get rid of Obamacare? That has already been done for all practical purposes. Build a wall? The prototypes are complete and if it is not built, it will not be the fault of the Trump Administration so much as it is of Republicans in Congress who still do not appear to understand the significance of the immigration problem.  But perhaps most central to Trump’s appeal was his promise to restore American manufacturing, especially in the rust belt.

Those were campaign promises, true. But they were not meant simply to be naked appeals to a certain class of voter. Trump was savvy to notice the blue-collar, middle-class voters Barack Obama and Hillary deliberately ignored and dumped into a “basket of deplorables” had unmet political needs.  

But more than that, Trump’s hostility to open immigration with lax or non-existent borders, recognized that America had unmet political needs that, even though they ran contrary to the establishment majority in the GOP, were a unifying element in the GOP’s base just waiting for someone like Trump to seize the initiative.

But if the Republican establishment is diminishing then what name best suits the now defunct in nomenclature party?

History suggests the Trumpian Party is much like the Republican Party of old, the Whigs freed from their slavery albatross. They stressed the forgotten man—farmers, laborers—while binding together the nation with economic policies and jobs.  Whig leader Henry Clay, (like Trump) argued for “internal improvements” that would improve the productivity of the country by facilitating trade in both sections of the country, a national bank to promote circulation of money across the nation, and high tariffs to maintain America’s key industries of iron and textiles.

What we now call “free trade” began at the end of World War II, when the United States benefited from the “Golden Accident.” America stood in the unique position of being the only major nation in the world that had not suffered physical devastation or financial ruin as the result of the war.  The United States and the United States alone emerged from the war with intact industries and found a world that desperately needed it both as a producer and as a consumer of other nations’ goods.

But this was an artificial position. America controlled up to 15 percent of all world trade, and 40 percent of world manufacturing. All free markets were open to U.S. goods primarily because no one could compete with us. This situation lasted mainly until Western Europe and Japan’s standard of living increased enough to become significant trading partners. At that point, the free trade the United States enjoyed for over 15 years dissipated.

Then came competitiveness, as we saw in the auto and steel industry. Prohibitions in other nations denied American products a place in the market. Worse, key industries necessary for defense—steel, textiles, and electronics—had been allowed to move offshore.

Trump recognized this threat to American workers, industry, and security intuitively, as he does most challenges. His drive to see America as the best in all things is what instinctively takes him to the heart of the problem. In the case of his insistence on bringing back manufacturing jobs—which in just a year of his administration, have already started to return. Trump correctly acknowledged, as Americans that there are some industries that can never be allowed to disappear.

Trump will win this battle because our history and experience are on his side. Aside from the Golden Accident, the United States has never been a fully free-trade nation, and most Republican presidents have never been willing to abandon the key manufacturing industries.

Even Reagan appreciated the need for selective tariffs. The difference between Reagan’s time and our own is that the apparent strengths of the new high-tech industries appeared to compensate for the loss of textiles and steel, and the full devastation of our “de-industrialization” had not become apparent. It is by no means clear that Reagan would not agree with Trump about tariffs today were he around to make a judgment.

In short, Trump is a representative of the classical Republicanism that marked Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, and Calvin Coolidge. He also harks back to the even more classic Americanism of Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and Andrew Jackson.

Trump’s “new” Republicanism really isn’t so new, and it is working to revive the nation economically, driving down unemployment, pushing black unemployment to historically low levels, creating a surging stock market, and inspiring record consumer confidence. It has revived a moribund Republican Party that stood against the interests of Americans and in favor of foreigners.

Whatever you want to call the new party, the word “American” should be a part of it.

Photo credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

About Larry Schweikart

Larry Schweikart is the co-author (with Michael Allen) of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller, "A Patriot's History of the United States," and producer of the PBS documentary "Rockin' the Wall."

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12 responses to “Trump is Reviving American Republicanism”

  1. Establishment elites who made themselves uber wealthy by selling U.S. out (and now won’t recognize that their days of plunder are over) are the only true resistance to Trump and the America First Revolution. They’re lost in their pre-2016 election feeding habits and still seek to restore their old place at the DC money trough.

    These globalist gluttons are being summarily tossed off the MAGA train every day.

    Trumpublicanism is here to stay

  2. But that’s the old,white,male way Trump wants. I mean, you need a diverse population with a diversified service economy to decline gracefully In the 21st Century. Blah, blah, blah.
    And they wonder why Trump won.

    • Donald Trump won because the Democrats have become a party with a Gerentocracy in charge. That Gerentocracy consists of a WEALTHY, White, Octogenarian, Ultra-Leftist cabal of old white people clinging to power! The Democrat Gerentocracy is a mirror image of the Cuban Communist Party’s Politiburo.

      Republicans, under Donald Trump, have embraced the WORKING PEOPLE in our nation, The farmer, the factory worker, the coal miner…all the people who in the past, helped greatly to make American GREAT and STRONG. These people are working again, and making good wages, thanks to Trump policies and his “deals.”

      Democrats today, stand for the ILLEGAL ALIEN as well as the CRIMINAL of color. Democrats stand for the PERVERT, the sexual DEVIANT and the HOMOSEXUAL…all things that are ANTI-AMERICAN and detrimental to our nation, our people and our culture! THAT is why Democrats are losing and will continue to do so.

    • Cheating as usual. It’s soon to be Mueller Time, Boris.

    • Who doesn’t capitalize the first letter of their last name, or do you have all the bread?

  3. This isn’t just about a need for manufacturing jobs. You cannot today buy a hammer, screwdriver, hand power tool, small lathe or milling machine, portable generator under 5kW, small portable pump, or most small automotive spare parts marked ‘Made in the USA.’ Basically if it’s a machine that can be carried by one or two men and costs under $10,000 we get it from overseas.

    Others — mostly China for most of that list — make them and ship them here for so much less than we can that nobody here makes them anymore.

    On economic terms there’s nothing wrong with that — at least not as long as our workers produce things that can be used abroad (accounting services, auto repairs, and McBurgers cannot) AND other countries allow the purchase of our goods and services.

    But there’s also a non-economic question: What happens to America if one or more major foreign suppliers are suddenly unwilling to sell to us? The economic answer is they couldn’t do that because their industries would collapse and millions of workers would be unemployed.

    How do we know that China would listen to that economic argument? They’ve been willing to inflict terrible hardships on their people in the name of national power before … where’s the sign that they’ve changed?

    Protecting a complete set of industries — even though not at full self-sufficiency — is a key element of national strength. Tariffs are indeed a tax but if we are not willing to pay that tax we’ll one day wish we had. The Chinese are not selling us vast quantities of goods at a fraction of domestic production costs from the goodness of their hearts.

    • The only thing wrong with that is the Chinese government underwrites manufacturing, sometimes using prison and slave labor. Further, some industries, like steel and aluminum, are vital to national defense.

      • Of course they are. Any wonder why the left wants to see them die off?
        The left wants this country helpless, defenseless, on its knees.
        They play a long game. If they can’t eradicate nukes, if we won’t “give peace a chance”, then they’ll make sure we won’t have a chance at winning wars. The left, by using the term “Free Trade” managed to cripple this country in many ways. And the stupids on the right, many of them, can’t see the long range plan. No more independence. Just co-dependence.

  4. How great is President Trump? After more than a year in office, which 2016 campaign promises has President Trump kept and which ones has he dropped? See updated Scoreboard at the Trump Campaign Promises blog for the status of his 50 most important campaign promises @

  5. With the imposition of the tariffs, Trump won over both the workers and their union bosses. How’s THAT for winning?!?!?!?

  6. Trump is what Republican is supposed to be! That the party has become a milk toast, weak kneed copy of the democrat party over the last 30 years is a disgrace, because it has abandoned most of what it always stood for, with the warped idea that it really must just “get along”! It has not been dependable, in fact right now most Republican politicians are in shock that Trump is actually doing what he said he would do. God forbid!! As far as they are concerned it’s alright to promise when running, but to ACTUALLY DO IT – NEVER!