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The Weeds: the Trump ideological realignment that wasn’t

Over the course of the presidential election, a lot of smart analysts thought Donald Trump’s candidacy might fundamentally upend the political orientation of the parties.

At Foreign Policy, Lee Drutman argued that Trump would usher in a political “realignment,” with the GOP standing for populism and the Democrats the party of cosmopolitan elites. The Washington Examiner wrote of how Trump promised to break with “Republican orthodoxy on domestic and foreign policy.”

But one big takeaway from Trump’s Cabinet choices — at least the ones we’ve seen so far — suggests those predictions were wrong.

Trump has chosen Betsy DeVos, a movement conservative on charter schools, for education secretary; Tom Price, a Republican Congress member with plans to slash entitlements, for health and human services secretary; and Elaine Chao, George W. Bush’s labor secretary, for transportation secretary. All in all, that’s a pretty conventional GOP slate that holds pretty conventional GOP positions.

On the latest episode of The Weeds, Vox’s Matt Yglesias and Sarah Kliff discuss Trump’s transition team, go deep on Price’s health care proposals, and try to figure out the policy beliefs of Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.

Here’s Yglesias on the Trumpian realignment that wasn’t:

During the campaign, I talked to a senior Senate Republican official about Trump, and he was clearly not thrilled with the idea of Trump as the Republican Party nominee — and he wasn’t trying to sell me on the idea that Trump would be an amazing president.

But he said Trump didn’t seem that interested in the details of public policy, so we figure: He’s going to come in; he’s going to get some regular policy guys; we’ll do our bills; and he’ll sign on to them. Maybe he’ll have a signature issue or two.

And I think that take — the Republican Party officials who weren’t NeverTrump or the Giuliani/Gingrich Trump surrogate thing, but who thought nominating Trump would be an okay president because they thought he would be a Republican president and sign off on Republican policy ideas ... that seems to be roughly the right calculus.

Trump is odd in various ways — maybe some that are entertaining, maybe some that are alarming. But the core agenda he’s pursuing is a very recognizable variant of American conservative politics.

Show notes:

You can download the episode here or listen at the link above — and always feel free to email us at

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