The merger is complete. As recently as 10 months ago, the Republican Party seemed an uneasy coalition between Paul Ryan conservatives and Donald Trump populists. The conservatives demanded Obamacare repeal, upper-bracket tax cuts, entitlement reform, budget restraint, and a outward-looking American foreign policy. The Trumpists were identified instead with immigration restriction, trade protection, infrastructure investment, an inward-looking foreign policy, and the protection of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. These differences once seemed real, enduring, and momentous. Not any more.
Since the election, House Speaker Paul Ryan has made his peace with trade protection in the form of a border adjustment tax, and immigration restriction in the form of a border wall. Today, he collected his reward: a House vote to repeal Obamacare followed by a rally in the White House Rose Garden hosted by President Trump. Onward now to a giant tax cut for upper-income earners! It’s a united party again, with Donald Trump setting its style and tone—but Ryan’s conservatives reasserting their sway over economic decision-making.
Which is not to say that Ryan conservatives will get all their own way. A more cautious Senate will restrain them, if only for self-protection: Senators worry more about losing elections than do gerrymander-protected representatives. But the notion of a distinctive Trump economic agenda, more attentive to middle-class concerns than that of House Republicans? That notion has dissolved. Except for periodic growling against existing trade deals—and the ban on negotiating new ones like the Trans-Pacific Partnership—the Trump economic agenda has merged with Ryan’s.