Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Could Trump Re-energize the Conservative Movement?


Jeff Bell, the American Principles Project’s Policy Director and occasional contributor to The Pulse 2016, was recently featured in an interview with National Review writer Neal Freeman about the 2016 election and the rise of Donald Trump.

Although some conservatives have strenuously opposed Trump’s nomination as the Republican Party’s standard-bearer in 2016 and have refused to support him, Bell believes that Trump’s success may ultimately be a “net plus for conservatism” — if he can get the GOP’s economic agenda back on track. And to do that, Bell sees one policy item as absolutely critical:

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

FREEMAN: … In what way could Trump wind up as a net plus for conservatism, with the latter defined for this purpose as Buckleyite conservatism?

BELL: The key political development in the post-Reagan era is the decline of conservative economics. Beginning with James Carville’s “It’s the economy, stupid” strategy in 1992, Republicans have not won the economic debate in a single presidential cycle. Moreover, as weak as the Obama economy has been, economic growth in 15 years of Democratic presidencies has been superior to the twelve years of Bush presidencies.

Voters continue to blame George W. Bush more than Barack Obama for the economic hard times that began in 2007. Conventional conservative economics of the type espoused by Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio lost every primary this year but Ohio and Puerto Rico. They barely mentioned wage stagnation or work-force decline and offered what sounded like trivial and incremental fixes. There’s no reason to believe that a Republican with such a limited agenda would fare better in the general election.

FREEMAN: And Trump, in your view, won the economic debate during the primaries and is capable of winning it in the general?

BELL: Primary voters preferred Trump in large part because he expressed outrage over the economic decline of the Bush and Obama presidencies — and confidence that a Trump presidency can deliver big change. The jury is out on whether if elected he could deliver on economic revitalization. He certainly wouldn’t get a long honeymoon.

FREEMAN: Let’s play that out a bit. Suppose that Trump is elected on a wave of optimism, or at least on a wave of stirred economic anxiety. What “big changes” could he effect that might accurately be described as conservative economics?


BELL: I don’t see how Trump or any other future president can fix the economy without reversing the takeover of the American economy by the Federal Reserve. Better trade deals won’t be enough unless the ultimate cause of economic dysfunction is addressed.

FREEMAN: Other than a return to the gold standard, what policy changes would you be recommending to President Trump?

BELL: For the last three-plus decades, Congress has approved only one or at most two “big changes” a new president asks for in his first year. For Reagan and George W. Bush, it was a tax cut. For Clinton, a tax increase. For Obama, the Affordable Care Act and the stimulus. Only George H. W. Bush failed to ask for a big change in his first year.

I believe that the Fed’s top-down management of the U.S. economy is the single biggest barrier to a resumption of broad-based prosperity. A new president should focus on Fed reform. Does that mean asking for legislation to return to a gold-backed dollar? Not necessarily. But serious reform has to address what the Fed is doing with zero interest rates, quantitative easing, too-big-to-fail, and all the rest.


To see Bell’s full take on the 2016 election, be sure to read the full article here.

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Paul Dupont is the managing editor for

Paul Dupont

Paul Dupont is editor of

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