I warned in 2016 that electing Donald Trump would be a mistake. Trump, a lifelong New York City liberal, would pull the Republican Party leftward until we have Democrats and Democrats-Lite. On some issues, I was wrong. On fiscal responsibility – long something Republicans had campaigned on, from the 1994 “Republican Revolution” to the Tea Party movement – I was right. This was underlined in Trump’s last month in office when he demanded Democrats issue bigger stimulus checks.
Trump never cared much for fiscal restraint. Republicans squandered the opportunity in 2017 and 2018 to put controls on spending after the disastrous Obama years. But it was Trump’s last month in office that set the stage for much worse things. Republicans simply cannot “beat the Democrats at their own game” by going along with more spending or even trying to make the budget (and the debt) bigger. Democrats will simply spend more while Republicans start to splinter as fiscal conservatives revolt.
Now, many on the right are making noise about “free money” from the government, which disincentivizes work and makes the deficit even more unsustainable. That’s great, but where were you people four years ago? Where were you one year ago? Do you realize how much credibility you have lost by going along with Trump’s gargantuan spending increases in 2020 and demands for bigger welfare payments?
Trump did a lot of good things, but it is time for Republicans to reject “economic populism.” That is just another term for big government, top-down control of the economy with higher taxes and more spending. Whether it comes from the Left or the Trumpian “New Right,” economic populism is not conservative. Support for free markets, limited government and fiscal restraint is authentic conservatism. We can support the good things Trump did and the valuable changes he made (especially “America First” foreign policy) while rejecting his irresponsible fiscal policies.