You knew this day was coming; the day that large swaths of President Trump’s biggest fans came to their senses and realized they were duped.
We just didn’t know that it would be his biggest fans who would turn on him first.
Trump’s presidential candidacy was fueled by a groundswell of populist fervor on the right. The so-called “alt-right” wing of the party was sick of sending conservative politicians to Washington only to see them conform to the constraints of the political establishment once there. In Trump, they saw a true outsider who would “drain the swamp” and usher in a new era of conservatism rooted in an “America First” philosophy, which valued economic nationalism and a non-interventionist approach to foreign policy.
At least that’s how the fantasy went.
Less than 100 days into the Trump presidency and the strong foundation of support he once enjoyed from his alt-right base is starting to develop serious cracks.
The “Trump is a turncoat” narrative was always going to be written, given the number of impossible, unachievable campaign promises that he made. I don’t think, however, that many people would have guessed that broken promises related to foreign policy would be landing him in hot water with the very people who fueled his candidacy.
In the matter of just a couple of weeks, Trump has embraced a strikingly-interventionist approach to dealing with conflict in the Middle East, embraced a less hawkish approach to dealing with China, walked back his criticism of NATO, and marginalized the influence of his chief strategist Steve Bannon, who serves as the de facto godfather of the white nationalist movement.
It was Trump’s recent decision to preemptively strike Syria – the first time the U.S. has done so during the Assad regime – that really began to worry some of his formerly-staunchest supporters, who see Trump becoming part of the very “swamp” that he promised to drain. The outcry from talking heads on the far-right was deafening.
President of the National Policy Institute and self-proclaimed founder of the alt-right movement, Richard Spender, condemned the missile strikes into Syria.
Conservative media giant, Ann Coulter, did the same noting that Trump campaigned on a promise to avoid interventionist military excursions in the Middle East, which had plagued the Bush Administration.
Other conservative talking heads like talk show host, Laura Ingraham, and Infowars contributor, Paul Joseph Watson, were also among the long list of online critics of Trump’s military foray into Syria.
The fact that Trump’s hawkish approach to dealing with Syria and apparent newfound interest in toppling Assad received support from the likes of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tells you all you need to know about the potential long-term political ramifications of his reversal on Middle Eastern policy. There is not a more loathsome trio of Senators from the Breitbart crowd.
Along with his complete reversal on Syria, Trump declined to label China a currency manipulator in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal and also balked at the idea of eliminating the Export-Import Bank, both of which he promised to do on the campaign trail.
Trump also did a complete reversal in his opinion of NATO, stating recently that the intergovernmental military alliance was “not obsolete,” after previously declaring that it was during the presidential campaign. Trump’s embrace of a multinational organization like NATO and his recent pronouncement that God bless “the entire world,” at the conclusion of his post- missile launch press conference on Syria, make him sound an awful lot like the very type of globalist that the nationalists on the alt-right detest.
Trump’s neck-breaking reversals in policy on Syria, China, the Ex-Im Bank, and NATO, in just a matter of days, has led many of Trump’s most ardent campaign supporters to worry that their hero – Steve Bannon – is losing influence in the White House. Bannon is reportedly on the outs in the White House after his quarreling with politically-moderate advisors, like Gary Cohn and Jared Kushner, became a distraction in the press.
Trump added fuel to the fire about Bannon’s future in the White House, by refusing to definitively say that he has full confidence in Bannon during a recent interview with the New York Post. If Bannon is eventually ousted from the White House, then all hell may break loose. After all, it was Lyndon Johnson who famously said of his political enemies, “better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”
Trump’s most strident supporters were once eager to pronounce him as America’s first true populist president since Andrew Jackson. Now that the honeymoon glow is beginning to wear off, however, many are worried that they may have simply just elected a slightly-more-orange version of George W. Bush.