How Trump Has Changed the Republicans

Aug 21, 2020

For almost four decades, the conservative movement was defined by one man, Ronald Reagan, and his movement, the Reagan Revolution.

Reagan was an unlikely revolutionary figure, a modestly successful actor with a self-effacing style and no intellectual pretensions. Yet he personally made the Republican Party into a conservative party, and his legacy inspired the movement’s leaders, animated its policy debates and stirred its voters’ emotions long after he left the scene.

Then four years ago, it all changed…

“I see myself as engaged in the project of post-Trumpism,” [American Compass’s Oren Cass] says. In that post-Trump era, he argues, conservatives must move beyond their instinct that market forces and a light government hand automatically offer the best answers. “What we call conservative economic policy isn’t actually small-c conservative in its orientation,” he says. “It’s libertarian economic policy.”

Mr. Cass argues that free markets don’t allocate resources well across all sectors of an economy. Specifically, markets leave some important sectors—including manufacturing—without sufficient investment. “Manufacturing provides particularly well-paying, stable employment—especially for men with less formal education,” he said in remarks last year. “Manufacturing also tends to deliver faster productivity growth, because its processes are susceptible to technological advances that complement labor and increase output.”

Thus, Mr. Cass argues, government should have policies that actively favor the expansion of manufacturing, including funding more research that can help manufacturing companies; giving engineering majors in colleges more government aid than, say, English majors; putting a “bias” in the tax code to help manufacturers; reducing—to nearly zero if necessary—the number of visas given to Chinese students until China changes policies that harm American companies; and requiring U.S.-made components in key products. “In the real world as we find it, America has no choice but to adopt an industrial policy, and we will be better for it,” Mr. Cass said.

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