Donald Trump and the Republican Congress this week are straining every fraying seam in their party’s coalition.
In just days, Trump’s White House has advanced aggressively nationalistic initiatives on trade and immigration, while also starting an incendiary fight with protesting NFL players. Each of these confrontations has energized elements of his blue-collar political base but alarmed an array of business leaders usually aligned with the GOP.
Simultaneously, Trump and congressional Republicans have been finalizing a plan to massively cut taxes after mounting their latest futile push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Those efforts reflect top priorities of the business community, but would sublimate, or actively undermine, the economic interests of Trump’s blue-collar supporters.
These divergent actions crystallize the challenge Republicans face melding their traditional small-government agenda with Trump’s bristling economic nationalism and increasingly overt appeals to white racial resentments.
The crusade to shrink government frequently threatens the financial needs of the older and blue-collar white voters who have provided the most receptive audience for Trump’s racially barbed populism. But that populism, particularly when it stokes racial resentment most openly, grates on the values of those most receptive to the low-tax, less-spending agenda—namely, business leaders and the broader circle of fiscally conservative white-collar voters.