Trump’s populism is about to face a rude awakening

Insofar as Trump campaigned as a different kind of Republican, one who would rebuild our infrastructure, wouldn’t touch Medicare, and would slap tariffs on companies that shipped jobs overseas, this sets up a potential showdown with his ostensible allies. Sure, Trump is on board with their big tax cut for the rich, but what about the rest of their agenda? Does he really want to get rid of Obamacare? Or voucherize Medicare? Or possibly privatize Social Security? And do they want to threaten a trade war against our own companies and other countries? In other words, will Trump change the Republican Party, or will the Republican Party change Trump?

Nobody knows, not even them. But whatever happens, it seems doubtful that Trump will be able to get Democrats to help him pass his nontraditional Republican policies. Politics, after all, is zero sum. If you win an election, that means I’ve lost it. There’s no incentive for Democrats to make Trump a successful president, just like there wasn’t for Republicans with Obama. Not to mention that while Democrats might agree with some of Trump’s goals — among them, child care and infrastructure — they don’t agree with the way he wants to use tax breaks that would mostly benefit the rich and well-connected to achieve them. Which is to say that Trump might not have the leverage he thinks he does with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Ryan.

Trump might have to decide between giving up on his populism, and giving up on getting anything done. Whichever he chooses, though, there’s a good chance that wages will continue to go up and up as the labor market gets closer and closer to full employment. The irony is that they might not rise as much, at least not for the “forgotten men” and women who pushed Trump into the White House, as they otherwise would have.