Trumpism Lite, the think tank
What exactly is the point of the America First Policy Institute?
WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 18: U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry (C) speaks as President and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Brooke Rollins (L), news commentator Van Jones (2nd L), Senior Advisor to the White House and son-in-law of President Donald Trump Jared Kushner (3rd L) and Jessica Jackson Sloan (R) of Cut50 attend a panel discussion during a summit meeting in the East Room of the White House on May 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. The White House held a summit to discuss prison reform. (Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images)
With former President Trump from Washington, America First’s populists are, as they were before 2016, more or less without a credible lawyer in the country’s capital. Since the demand far exceeds the supply for exactly these things, it is a seller’s market. So some of the new entrants seem to be sacrificing in the hopes that no one will notice the product flaws.
That said, if the things you liked about the Trump administration were stinginess on the second round of COVID exams, the platinum plan, and Paula White’s quasi-Christian styles, you’ll love the new think tank that was announced last week. the America First Policy Institute.
Trump himself said in a statement last week that they “have my full support as they work not only to preserve the historic achievements of my administration, but also to advance the America First Agenda into the future.”
The President and CEO is Brooke Rollins who has supported Amnesty and was instrumental in persuading the White House to take a gentler line on the unrest last year. Mike Allen from Axios Reports that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are informal advisers.
What you won’t see on the AFPI website are signs of strength in the three main themes that Trump chose: trade, immigration, and opposition to foreign wars.
The Blurb Because the “Center for Homeland Security and Immigration” criticizes “efforts to prevent the social integration of immigrants” and “narratives that proclaim American injustice” [and] Abuse of our asylum system ”without even mentioning illegal immigration.
In the area of foreign policy, the two best-known names are Keith Kellogg, formerly Mike Pence’s national security advisor, and John Ratcliffe, former director of the National Intelligence Service. Ratcliffe is an Iranian hawk and Kellogg wrote one op-ed in Breitbart in 2017, saying “don’t listen to those” calling on Trump to enforce his commitment to ending the war in Afghanistan.
Perhaps the Wilsonian mess of words in the security section of their mission statement – “The cause of freedom in every part of the world depends on a strong America” - could be excused if it was led by people whose records showed they were narrowly interpreting American interests. It’s impossible to have that confidence here.
The biggest name on the roster is likely Larry Kudlow, a staunch free trader who speaks out against social spending, not exactly the guy you’d expect to advocate creative ideas for restoring the American middle class. Other attitudes are even more puzzling, such as Javon Price, who came from the republican anti-Trump group GenZGOP. About Paula White, who will chair the “Center for American Values”, one thing is certain: the less, the better.
To the extent that some of these Trump-sponsored PACs and political outfits donate to the dying institutions of the D.C. pulling off, there may be a reason for this. However, it is difficult to look at this list of employees and conclude that it is a populist endeavor.
The details of what will come out of this new group are few, but it’s noteworthy how backward they were on their first media advertisement. Rollins and Chairwoman Linda McMahon discuss how they will defend the political legacy of the Trump administration. This can be useful for maintaining Trump’s hold in the GOP or for Brooke Rollins’ alleged political aspirations to run for Texas governor, but not much else. I think most America First Conservatives would admit that the Trump administration’s policies were decidedly mixed.
One could even argue that many of the people involved in this project share the blame for Trump’s 2020 loss. From Kudlow, who advised against a second round of COVID controls, to the Rollins / Kushner weakness on immigration, these types of deviations from the populist line likely played a role in many of the Midwest who voted for Trump when it was the first time they stayed home. Whatever shadiness there was in the November elections, it doesn’t relieve the people around Trump, whose decisions allowed them to be so close in the first place.
NeverTrumper Pete Wehner asserts Bloomberg told AFPI that after two impeachments, AFPI attempted to restore Trump’s reputation, but at least with the Republican Party grassroots base, such rehabilitation is not required. What is needed are institutions to advance the vision indicated by Trump’s success in 2016, but it looks like we will have to keep waiting for it.