I stirred up some controversy last week when I told a conference of several dozen House Republicans that the GOP is now officially a Trump-working-class party. For better or worse, I said at the gathering inside the Capitol dome, the baton has now officially been passed from the Reagan era to the Trump era. The members didn't quite faint over my apostasy, but the shock was palpable.
I emphasized that Republicans must prioritize delivering jobs and economic development to the industrial and Midwestern regions of the country — states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri. These are places that, for the most part, never felt the meager Obama administration recovery, and so these blue-collar Reagan Democrats took a leap of faith and came back to the Republican Party for the first time since 1984. The GOP will be judged in 2018 and 2020 as to whether they deliver results for this part of the country and for the forgotten middle-class men and women (aka "the deplorables") who Democrats abandoned economically and culturally. This is all simply a political truism.
What caught the ire of some of my conservative friends was this statement: "Just as Reagan converted the GOP into a conservative party, with his victory this year, Trump has converted the GOP into a populist, America-first party."
One friend lamented that I must have been drunk when I said this.
No. I meant exactly what I said. But I will clarify.
First, let me lay to rest the idea that this was a backhanded slam against Ronald Reagan's legacy. Hardly. I worked for the Gipper. He rebuilt the American economy and caused a quarter-century-long boom with wealth creation and prosperity nearly unrivaled in American history. He won the Cold War and vanquished the evil empire of the Soviet Union. He belongs on Mount Rushmore.
But this is 2016, not 1986. The world is a different place. The voters spoke with a thunderclap, opting for Trump's new breed of economic populism. He squashed his 16 GOP rivals. "Never-Trumpers," who insisted with absolute certainty that Trump could never win the general election or even the primary, can pretend that a political sonic boom didn't happen.
But guess what? It did — while all the highfalutin intellectuals and political consultants were napping.
So yes, we have awoken to a new party that will be a lot tougher on illegal immigration and will build a wall; that will be a lot more skeptical of lopsided trade deals; more wary of foreign entanglements; and more prone to spend money on infrastructure. I don't approve of all of these shifts, but they are what the voters voted for.
Trade and immigration are unambiguously good for the country — but it will have to be done in ways that are supported by the American people, not shoved down our throats by the elites. In this way, I am more of a populist. The elites in both parties have never understood Trumpism and often are contemptuous of the intellect and lifestyles of the Trump loyalists.
Conservatives should go back and read Jude Wanniski's classic "The Way the World Works." Jude repeatedly reminds us that there is great collective wisdom in the decisions made by the American voters. It's wise for elites on the right to listen to what they are saying.
A lot of good things come with the Trump package: probably three conservative justices on the Supreme Court; tax cuts and assaults against regulatory overreach; the repeal of Obamacare; and so on. But it's a package deal, folks. If you want purity, vote for Ron Paul for president again and see where that gets you.
I have always tried not to oversell Donald Trump to voters, because I've been so bitterly disappointed by politicians time and again. You never know how it will turn out, and it's folly to render a verdict on a President-elect Trump, who hasn't yet notched a single policy victory.
But it is a new Republican Party, and a new political and policy era has begun. On election night, Trump toppled two family dynasties — the Clintons and the Bushes — and Barack Obama's legacy all at once. They were the troika of big losers in 2016. Trump didn't topple the Reagan legacy of growth, optimism and peace through strength. If the age of Trump is to be a success, he will build on and modernize that legacy.
Stephen Moore is an economic consultant with Freedom Works and an economic adviser to Donald Trump. To find out more about Stephen Moore and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.