The Best & Worst Modern GOP Domestic Policy Presidents

In keeping with our analysis of how to write real history the standard we will judge Republican Presidents by is how close they came to bringing the Republican Party back to its Federalist Party origins.

We will certainly not use the Progressive “historian” approach to grading Presidents which is nothing more than to rank Presidents exclusively on whether or not they mindlessly expanded the power and wealth of bureaucracy.

Once again, we exclude Gerald Ford since his tenure was too short, quirky, and unremarkable to be fairly judged relative to the others.

Trump – Trump tops the list (and, by combining both of his scores on domestic and foreign policy, he comes out as the best overall Republican President since the New Deal) because he perfected the tentative steps Reagan took to bring the GOP back to the Federalist Party  by taking Reagan’s economic, military buildup, and foreign policy platforms and adding Hamilton’s infrastructure, trade protectionism and immigration restrictionism. In a way what is called ‘Reaganism’ was an early, incomplete, attempt at the ideological perfection of Trumpism. Trump really should have been Reagan’s Vice President because he would have continued as President what Reagan got right while taking the issues Reagan did not get around to in the proper, Federalist, direction.

Reagan – By breaking with the Rockefeller wing of the GOP and rebranding the Republicans as a clearer alternative to the Democrats Reagan foreshadowed Trump and paved much of the road Trump took on the 45th President’s even more historic political journey. Reagan proved that a Republican could not only challenge the New Deal economic consensus, but could thrive on doing so. Reagan’s economics were so effective that the next Democrat President, Clinton, did not dare to challenge Reagonomics in any meaningful way. Obama tried to but ended up with no lasting changes except for a brittle Obamacare system that is little loved, and generally creating the immediate series of policy failures that led to  the election of Trump who, as we have seen, forms a seamless continuum with Reagan.

Nixon – Today Nixon’s domestic policies like establishing the EPA and price controls seem strange, even a little bizarre, for a Republican. But keep in mind that during Nixon’s time there wasn’t an appetite in the GOP to take on the New Deal economic consensus because FDR’s coalition was wobbling but not yet ready to crumble. Basically, the standard Rockefeller Republican platform of the time was to promise to manage New Deal bureaucracy better than the Democrats, not to change it except for around the edges. Indeed, Rockefeller Republicans have always been better at managing the Progressive machinery in DC than any Democrat President. Since Nixon wasn’t really expected to revolutionize Republican economic policy he doesn’t get marked down too harshly for not trying.

George Herbert Walker Bush – Unlike Richard Nixon, Bush version 1.0 was expected to at least continue Reaganism, if not improve on it after he won in 1988. Instead he pointlessly revived governing on an intellectually bankrupt Rockefeller Republican domestic platform and by removing Reaganite advisors from the White House as soon as he was sworn in, which in turn pointlessly antagonized GOP voters. The best thing he did for Republican domestic policy was lose to Clinton in 1992 which led to the election of a more solidly Reaganite GOP Congress in 1994.

George Walker Bush – Once again we see how the Trump and Reagan Presidencies synergize with eachother from a Federalist Party perspective by looking at how 12 years of two Bush Administrations tried to navigate the Party away from the incomplete steps Reagan took to restore the GOP back to its Federalist Party origins. Their collective misgovernance later backfired spectacularly (with Reagan winning posthumous revenge on the Bush clan) when a fedup Republican voter base embraced Trump who went on to destroy the Bush dynasty and then improve significantly on what Reagan did by doing what not even Reagan was brilliant enough to do on trade and immigration. In many ways the second Bush unintentionally setup a future environment favorable to Trump by continuing to antagonize Republican voters on immigration and trade, as well as treating the Reaganite members of Congress of the time with more hostility than he ever treated the Democrats with. His few positive domestic policies, such as tax cuts, were puny compared to the more substantive Trump and Reagan rate reductions. George W. Bush also left the Party in a significantly worse condition than his father did after he left office because he was succeeded after 2008 by Democrat supermajorities and an ideologically pure Progressive President, while his own Party was left in ideological turmoil. Trump, by contrast, in a single term left the Party in a strong position at the state and Federal levels in terms of both numbers and in terms of moving the GOP towards a winning election platform.

Eisenhower – Surprise! It turns out that the worst modern Republican President on domestic policy was not George W. Bush, but Ike. The reason he ranks dead last is because of his confusing all segments of the American Right for 70 years by his warning about the wrong industrial complex. Instead of warning about the military-industrial complex he should have warned about the multitude of Progressive-industrial complexes such as the academic-industrial complex or the regulatory-industrial complex. While the military-industrial complex is not perfect, it is less objectionable than the Progressive industrial-complexes. Furthermore, unlike the Progressives, it actually brings some value to the policy table: The Soviets could not have been defeated without the military-industry relationship that Eisenhower foolishly condemned, and, after 1991, the military-industrial complex was and is the only thing standing in the way of Chinese world hegemony. Beyond the policy error of condemning the military-industrial complex, his speech contributed to the long-reigning confusion on the Right over what is the proper agent-principal relationship by which the Federal Government should be run on.

Establishment Republicans continue to this day to think Hamiltonian governing institutions – such as the military-industrial complex – can coexist as subordinates to Progressive institutions. Meanwhile the American dissident “Right” took Ike’s comment as proof that both the Hamiltonian and Wilsonian institutions are illegitimate because they think the very existence of the entire United States Government after 1865 is illegitimate compared to their (largely imaginary) concept of what the United States is supposed to be . The problem with this is that if the existence of Hamilton’s institutions are illegitimate because Lincoln saved them by fighting and winning the Civil War, then the dissident “Right” has no political system to counter the Progressive institutions with.  Notice that Progressives never, ever, attack the legitimacy of their institutions such as the university system.

The correct, Nationalist system engineering framework to go with is to subordinate the Progressive institutions back into servant institutions of Hamilton’s structures just as Progressives always endorse subordinating Hamilton’s institutions to their own Progressive institutions. But this cannot be done by these pseudo-Nationalists because, by definition, if they do not believe Hamilton’s political infrastructure should even exist in the first place, then they cannot even agree on what are the Nationalist governing institutions that they would like to see be the centers of power. They somehow expect a new Nationalist government to create policy, Ex Nihilo, of any governing institutions.

So we ended up (until Trump) with the establishment wrongly thinking that the true, Nationalist, Hamiltonian institutions can continue to be servants of Progressive institutions because they don’t mind it, and the “Nationalists” refusing (because of Lincoln) to advocate for Hamilton’s Nationalist institutions that should be bringing the Progressive industrial-complex back into servitude. By wrongly labeling the military-industrial complex as something for Republicans to be primarily concerned with (relative to other industrial-complexes) Eisenhower helped throw Conservative strategy off course for decades.

The only President on this list that acted with the appropriate attitude (if not execution) to the agent-principal relationship was Trump because the he did not run to destroy Hamilton’s institutions. Instead Trump wanted to govern from Hamilton’s institutions because Trump simply wanted the great power Hamilton and Lincoln vested Nationalist system, like the military-industrial complex, with.

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