Once a populist, Trump governs like a conservative Republican

President Trump, a longtime New York City Democrat who campaigned as a populist with little loyalty to the Republican Party, is increasingly choosing to govern as an unwavering conservative.

His first major legislative victory probably will be a $1.5 trillion tax cut that primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy. He is filling the courts with deeply conservative judges who will shape the legal landscape for generations.

And although Trump has struggled to chalk up wins on Capitol Hill, his Cabinet departments are rolling back scores of Obama-era policies on energy, education, the environment and law enforcement. Just this week, Trump cut two of Utah’s national monuments established by Democratic presidents to a fraction of their original size and was preparing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a step long sought by hawks.

At the same time, many of the more populist proposals that Trump championed as a presidential candidate — including promises to curb imports and spur $1 trillion in new spending on infrastructure projects — remain stalled.

President Trump on Dec. 4 signed two proclamations in Salt Lake City to shrink Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (The Washington Post)

“For the past year, he’s done pretty much everything conservatives could have wanted,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union. “In the past, Republican presidents have done conservative things to appeal to the base and then done not-so-conservative things to try to broaden their appeal. They’ve kind of ping-ponged. Trump has really doubled down.”

The pattern has become so pronounced that even some of Trump’s Republican critics acknowledge that — beyond the inflammatory tweetstorms, name-calling and other antics — he is pushing an agenda friendly to their interests and has not aggressively pursued anti-trade moves and other actions that would alarm them.

“As someone who’s been critical of Trump, there’s a lot that his administration is doing that I like,” said Doug Heye, a Republican consultant and former communications director for the Republican National Committee, who said he was particularly pleased with Trump’s judicial picks and other personnel choices.

The conservative tilt is explained in part by Trump’s staff and Cabinet picks, who have been given freer rein by the White House to pursue their own agendas than in past administrations. Those picks…

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