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Trump is rejecting conservatism because Republicans are letting him

Donald Trump Is Sworn In As 45th President Of The United States AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool

Liberals were alarmed by President Donald Trump’s inaugural address on Friday, but his speech was also noticeably devoid of almost any substance that we’d typically consider ideologically conservative.

The Republican president’s 20-minute speech did not mention the importance of corporate tax reform. Trump did not mention the word “deficit” or “debt.” His foreign policy promised an isolationism that breaks from decades of Republican Party dogma.

All of that raises a question: How does Trump feel free to so sharply break with the rest of his party? On the latest episode of The Weeds, Vox’s Matt Yglesias, Sarah Kliff, and Ezra Klein go over Trump’s inaugural address and what it means about the new presidency. (You can listen to the link below, or subscribe to The Weeds on iTunes.)

Here’s Yglesias on Trump’s speech:

Trump has an objective need to maintain an adequate level of institutional support from congressional Republicans, which means I don't think he can just completely jettison their agenda. But he clearly feels confident that at this point he can stand up and deliver a high-profile speech that literally does not mention any congressional Republican legislative priorities, and they will not complain about it.

If the way we thought the world worked was that after the inaugural speech, Jeb Hensarling [a Republican Congress member from Texas] would be featured on Fox News saying, "I'm really upset that Trump didn't talk about conservative priorities," and that Bill O'Reilly and other conservative pundits would do shows about how terrible this address was, that would be a different story. But there's not that kind of jumpiness in major conservative media or in the caucus.

Democrats are famously neurotic — whenever anything happened when Obama was president or Clinton was a candidate, there'd immediately be a big, prominent debate inside ideological center-left circles taking place out in public: "Is this a huge betrayal? Is she blowing it?"

At the moment, at least, Trump has mastery over his movement. And everything is celebratory — if he wants to strike a populist tone, he can just do that.

Show notes

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