It would be an understatement to say that former President Donald Trump changed the Republican Party. Whatever one’s view of Trump, most observers can agree that Trump forced a break-up between the GOP and big business. Within conservative circles, debate persists over whether this is a good thing. On one side, writers like Oren Cass urge conservatives to embrace an essentially anti-free market approach. Even some Republican politicians, like Senator Josh Hawley, have expressed support for this path. On the other side, publications like the Washington Times and The Federalist call for conservatives to continue to support the free market. Others view the GOP as only selectively anti-big business, or using the idea for rhetorical purposes only.
Populism, Conservatism, and Trump
It is important to reflect on what has fueled this “anti-business” view in some conservative circles. To sum it up in one word: populism. It’s no secret that Trump’s political identity is centered around populism – but does populism always mean being anti-free market? Trump’s conservatism has been about more than just pro-tariff and anti-immigration policies. Under Trump, both inside and outside his administration, conservatives have pursued further privatizing education. The Trump administration made it easier for big business to classify workers as independent contractors, and conservative blogs attacked California for passing a law that did the opposite. The Trump administration pursued several policies that sought to reign in the Affordable Care Act.