NewsAbortion Shows Us Donald Trump’s Popularist Essence

Abortion Shows Us Donald Trump’s Popularist Essence

Politics

The dictum: Hug the middle, avoid being tagged as an extremist.

Saint,Louis,,Mo,,Usa,-,March,11,,2016:,Donald,Trump

Down deep, in keeping with his background in business and marketing, Donald Trump is a popularist. That being the term, uh, popularized by Democratic political analyst David Shor. It can be summed up easily enough: hug the middle, avoid being tagged as an extremist.  

In fact, on a host of issues—he’s in favor of tax cuts, Social Security, and infrastructure, and against illegal immigration, crime, and most trade with China—Trump holds positions that rate as majoritarian. By contrast, many of Joe Biden’s positions—open borders, electric-vehicle mandates, energy export pauses, transgenderism—count as minoritarian.  

(Yes, one could dispute every one of these assertions, but electoral politics is about themes and, okay, about optics. For instance, there might be a good reason—or no good reason at all—why the Bidenites chose to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility on Easter, but they did it, and Trump has made them own it.) 

The goal of the pragmatic politico is to play popularist while framing his opponent as an extremist. We might think of it as the electoral equivalent of the children’s game of “pin the tail on the donkey.” Only now, it’s pin the extremist tail on the partisan donkey, the Democrats. Or, of course, pin it on the elephant, the Republicans.  

Just last month here at The American Conservative, this author wrote of Trump, “For all his personal vehemence, he is something of a popularist.” I specifically cited the abortion issue, which Trump has long tried to downplay, as part of a middle-muddle strategy.

Now Trump’s April 8 campaign video eliminates all doubt: He’s a center-hugging popularist. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision—which overturned Roe v. Wade, reverting the abortion issue to the states—Trump actually wants to vindicate that position. In that video, he reminded viewers that his three Supreme Court picks all voted for Dobbs. But Dobbs, of course, didn’t ban anything but federal overreach. In the wake of Dobbs, each state must decide; Trump knows pro-life states will restrict and ban abortion, while pro-choice states will not. The result will be a muddle red-blue checkerboard on the map; for instance, Iowa and Indiana pro-life, Illinois, in between, pro-choice.  

Is such a piebald outcome satisfactory to either of the respective hard cores on abortion? Of course not. But the problem for the voter-minded pol is that both polarities of the debate, Planned Parenthood (PP), and the Right to Lifers (RTL), can be dubbed, fairly or unfairly, as extremist. 

PP’s extremism is well known: In keeping with its tacit reality as a front for abortion doctors (anti-natalist zealots and profit-maximizers, both) it supports abortion up to nine months—and it doesn’t even hide it. Such ne plus ultra, which a former Democratic senator compared to infanticide,

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