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Trumpism never existed. It was always just Trump.

American Affairs editor Julius Krein discusses Donald Trump, 2020, and the decay of the American right on The Ezra Klein Show.

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President Donald Trump departs from a rally at Gastonia Municipal Airport on October 21, 2020, in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

In 2016, Julius Krein was one of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. In Trump’s critiques of the existing Republican and Democratic establishments, Krein saw the contours of a heterodox ideology he believed could reshape American politics for the better. So he established a pro-Trump blog and, later, a policy journal called American Affairs, which his critics claimed was an attempt to “understand Trump better than he understands himself.”

Today, Krein finds himself in an unusual position. Upon realizing Trump was not committed to any governing vision at all (but was as racist as his critics suggested), Krein disavowed the president in 2017. But as the editor of American Affairs, he’s still committed to building an intellectual superstructure around the ideas that were threaded through Trump’s 2016 campaign.

This conversation on The Ezra Klein Show is about the distance between Trump and the ideology so many tried to brand as Trumpism. We also discuss Krein’s view that the US has always functionally been a one-party system, the disconnect between Republican elites and voters, what a new bipartisan economic consensus could look like, whether Joe Biden and the Democrats take Trump’s ideas more seriously than Trump does, which direction the GOP will go if Trump loses in a landslide in November, why Republicans lost interest in governance, whether media coverage is the true aim of right-wing populists, why Krein thinks the true power lies with the technocrats, and more.

My conversation with Krein can be heard on The Ezra Klein Show.

Subscribe to The Ezra Klein Show wherever you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Julius Krein’s book recommendations:

Innovation in Real Places by Dan Breznitz

History Has Begun by Bruno Maçães

The Hall of Uselessness by Simon Leys

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