President Trump entered the Oval Office as a populist question mark. But after a year, the conservative Heritage Foundation now trumpets that Trump has a more conservative track record than Ronald Reagan at least according to their standards.
Trump adopted two-thirds, or about 64 percent, of the Heritage agenda, meaning that the administration copied and pasted 334 of the think tank’s unique policy proposals. By comparison, the New York Times reports, Reagan adopted just 49 percent of the Heritage agenda making 2017 a banner year for Heritage.
That was always the plan. When other conservatives kept their distance, Heritage welcomed Trump with open arms. He needed a detailed agenda and they had a stockpile of policy proposals ready to roll. And so, in the absence of his own ideas, the ideological wildcard of an executive adopted the ideas of the biggest conservative think tank in Washington.
While Congress was grinding out tax reform, Trump was picking up his pen and his phone and Trump was leaving the Paris Climate Accord and reinstating the Mexico City Policy and ending Net Neutrality. Heritage has a more complete list of all the achievements on their website.
“‘Hell, why can’t we do that? Let’s try it. Let’s make it happen,’” said Heritage founder and former president Ed Feulner impersonating the president. “In some respects, Trump the nonpolitician has an incredible advantage, even over Ronald Reagan,” Feulner told the New York Times. “Because Ronald Reagan knew there were certain things government couldn’t do.”
From its Capitol Hill campus, Heritage has cast a long shadow over Washington policy fights. The fact that Trump has taken up their agenda speaks to their continued influence. The fact that Heritage brass mentions Trump in the same breath as Reagan reflects the state of modern pragmatic conservatism.
Setting aside the fact that understanding the limits of government is a prerequisite to our constitutional republic, the right seems to measure conservatism as opposition. Never mind that Reagan was able to appeal to permanent principle while simultaneously winning passing policies. What’s needed now, the conservative consensus seems to have concluded, is someone willing to tear down the status quo of the administrative state. In Trump, Heritage has found that champion.