Consider all the billionaires and titans of finance Trump is lining up to staff his administration. And the fact that, like every Republican presidential candidate since Reagan, he favors a massive tax cut for upper-income earners, despite the lack of popular support for such a policy among the American people in general and even Republicans in particular. And the fact that Republican options for replacing the Affordable Care Act would abandon the goals of universal and comprehensive health insurance coverage, leaving many working-class voters with less support than they now enjoy.
And then there’s the considerable uncertainty about whether Republicans in the House and Senate will go along with Trump’s more explicitly populist plans — the border wall and deportations, the tariffs (and possible trade wars), the ambitious infrastructure spending. The GOP is deeply divided, with some supporting Trump’s blue-collar agenda and many others, ranging from Sarah Palin (who denounced as “crony capitalism” Trump’s effort to get Carrier to keep several hundred jobs in the U.S.) to The Wall Street Journal’s influential editorial page, extremely skeptical and even overtly hostile to it.
If Trump’s populist agenda comes to little or nothing — if it becomes just the latest (and most egregious) example of a rhetoric of populism being used to sweeten a policy agenda that overwhelmingly benefits the rich — the GOP is going to have a major problem on its hands.