Trump is advancing post-liberal politics in three key areas. First, a foreign policy that is marked by realism totally undisguised by platitudes or historical sentiments. NATO friends, for instance, have been warned they must contribute more towards the organization’s budget. In the Middle East, the United States has thrown its weight behind the unexpected alliance of Israel and Saudi Arabia. And Trump has pulled out of deals that he says weren’t working (Iran) or that he doesn’t philosophically agree with (Paris climate accord). His withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council is emblematic of his approach. We all know the UN is a joke on human rights (its membership includes dictatorships such as Cuba and China); critics accuse its members of turning the council into a platform to attack Israel. Trump is simply the first President to do the decent thing and walk away.
Second, Trump is pushing forward with what former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon once described as the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” This is partly about a deregulation agenda – everything from banking to the environment to repealing the Obamacare individual mandate. But it’s also about reversing the tide of what conservatives deride as Obama’s “you didn’t build that” mentality, with its implication that a big state is an inevitable, benign feature of modern capitalism. Trump, by contrast, is pushing corporate tax down from 35% to 21%, and the majority of tax filers will see a saving this year. The irony is that Trump has proved you can create jobs in the United States with conservative free market remedies, and yet he still insists on imposing foreign goods tariffs that threaten the supply chains and markets of the very workers he wants to help. The age of Trump might be hypercapitalist, but it’s also nationalist and traditionalist. Trump seeks to return to being a country that leads in exports, not imports.