by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
After President Trump’s first year in office, political observers marveled at how much he governed like a conventional Republican, in substance if not style. But if 2017 was defined by tax cuts, deregulation, conservative judges, and a failed bid to repeal Obamacare; tariffs, trade wars, and the more distinctly “Trumpist” elements of the president’s agenda have become priorities in recent weeks.
Trump rejected a deal on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that did not enact new limits on family-based immigration and abolish the diversity visa lottery, among other things, even after showing flexibility during a bipartisan White House meeting. His administration unveiled an infrastructure package.
But the area where Trump has most squarely taken on his own party is tariffs and trade. Trump’s announcement of sweeping new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum clearly caught congressional Republicans off guard. It appears to have knocked top economic adviser Gary Cohn out of the administration while protectionists Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade policy director Peter Navarro are ascendant. …
… All the way back during the campaign, there were questions about whether “Trumpism” was a coherent governing philosophy with real policy implications or simply personality-driven. Yet Trump’s trade protectionism has probably been his most consistent public policy view, and it has persisted even after nationalist and populist advisers like former chief strategist Steve Bannon have left the White House.