The crisis of Trumpism

Trumpism is in crisis.

This isn’t a function of poll numbers, or the Russia controversy, or any other melodrama of the past three months, but something more fundamental: No officeholder in Washington seems to understand President Donald Trump’s populism or have a cogent theory of how to effect it in practice, including the president himself.

House Speaker Paul Ryan isn’t a populist and doesn’t want to be a populist. He has spent his adult life committed to a traditional limited-government agenda. He crafted his own platform during the campaign, the so-called Better Way agenda, to differentiate congressional Republicans from Trump.

Trump, for his part, has lacked the knowledge, focus or interest to translate his populism into legislative form. He deferred to others on legislative priorities and strategies at the outset of his administration, and his abiding passion in the health-care debate was, by all accounts, simply getting to a signing ceremony.