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Will President Trump be Co-Opted?

November 9, 2016

Thirty-five years ago my fellow “young” conservatives eagerly awaited appointment to positions in the Reagan Administration. I remember asking Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, if there were enough conservatives to fill a Presidential Administration.

I needn’t have worried, there were many, many, Liberals willing to serve who were given that opportunity over the best efforts of conservatives.  A phrase became popular, “Let Reagan be Reagan,” as appointment after appointment disappointed the conservative faithful.

What happened? In a word, Ronald Reagan, the most conservative Republican to be elected President of the United States, had been “co-opted.”

Unless you’ve served as a political appointee in a top executive position in the U.S. government, or tried to obtain such an appointment, can you appreciate how strong are the forces at work to assure that Left, or moderate “Liberal” views dominate.

Most Republican members of Congress are not well educated or committed to a philosophy of limited government. They can be “rolled” and often go along with being “rolled.”  There are just too many of “them” and a President is easily moved away from deeply held, or felt, positions.

That explains why James Baker, George Shultz and Robert MacFarlane controlled Reagan national security and foreign policy. Even when President Reagan defended his Strategic Defense Initiative from overtures by Mikhail Gorbachev to give it up, SDI was defeated by an Establishment grown fat on the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction.

Though President Reagan called for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, he did nothing.

And Ronald Reagan was “our” man.

Now comes Donald Trump. Will he be co-opted?

I’m afraid the only question is “when” that will happen.  On August 27 I asked what a Trump Administration would look like and composed a list of twenty-two top appointments. Print that list and compare it against Trump’s first appointments.

The problem isn’t Trump, who means well. The problem lies in the people he knows. If they had no previous government service–or served as a George W. Bush appointee–you can expect that President Trump’s policies will be defeated.

He already seems confident that the GOP under RNC chairman Reince Priebus is his friend. As President, Donald Trump has no friends and certainly not in the GOP Establishment. He would do better to look at the leadership of the many state-based conservative organizations that are united in an organization called the State Policy Network. Even Inside the Beltway “conservative” organizations are risky allies. They’ve been in the “conservative business” too long and have learned how to survive in Washington, DC.


I doubt that you’ll find many committed, knowledgeable, conservatives in Trump’s circle of friends and business associates and, as a result, he will be betrayed many times. After awhile, a President simply concedes to that reality and does what he can in the limited areas where he knows something. In Trump’s case that area is trade and illegal immigration.

All other areas of public policy will be up for grabs and nobody knows which will take a Trump  Administration down a road well traveled by Liberals, aspiring lobbyists, self-servers and worse.

Fortunately, Trump has a close knit family on whom he relies. Melania Trump grew up in the former Soviet Union and has no illusions about Putin’s Russia. Donald Trump, Jr., seems to have deep conservative principles and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was instrumental in choosing Mike Pence for Veep, also has good instincts. And Vice President Pence could play an important role, but the body language between Trump and Pence is strained. Pence may spend most of his time attending state funerals and not within walking distance of the Oval Office.

Keeping President Trump on the straight and narrow, therefore, will be difficult, and the Establishment that fought him every step of the way to victory in 2016 is legion.


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