Trump’s conservative dream team – Politico
Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee is a huge critic of public schools and has pushed to steer taxpayer dollars to charter schools and voucher programs. His Health and Human Services pick wants to dismantle Obamacare and privatize Medicare.
His attorney general nominee would crack down on “sanctuary cities” and increase deportations of undocumented immigrants. And his choice to run the CIA believes shutting down “black site” prisons was a mistake, while his national security adviser contends Islam is a threat to Western civilization.
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Add them all up, and the president-elect is well on his way to building a conservative dream team that has Republicans cheering and liberals in despair.
“It’s the most conservative [Cabinet] since Reagan,” said David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth. “But I don’t think he’s using an ideological lens to pick people. I think he’s genuinely looking for people who share his priorities for these agencies.”
Indeed, even his so-called establishment pick for transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, has conservative credentials from her time advising the Heritage Foundation and her eight-year tenure at the Labor Department, where admirers and critics say she took a very pro-business approach.
With Mitt Romney still in the mix for secretary of state and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley getting the nod for U.N. ambassador, Trump is also adding some moderate voices to his administration. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, also wins points from the GOP establishment as a longtime Republican megadonor.
But conservative activists and think tanks say his early picks have inspired confidence that his administration will take action on their long-standing priorities, including repealing Obamacare and reining in regulations.
“This is the shakeup that we need,” said Adam Brandon, president of the influential group FreedomWorks. “The conservative grass-roots movement has developed the bench, and you’re seeing a lot of that bench coming out on the field now.”
“You’re never going to get a field this good. This is bases loaded with maybe one out. If you can’t get a run or two home right now, you’ve got a crisis,” he said. “But what I’m hoping is you’ll get four or five runs in.”
The Trump lovefest marks an evolution for conservative activists, who once viewed Trump with deep skepticism, pointing to his earlier, liberal iterations and past statements on everything from abortion to health care to Social Security.
Liberals, meanwhile, are as dismayed as conservatives are thrilled with the appointments so far. “Any progressive who was thinking that there was going to be common ground with Trump because he ran to the left in the Republican primary on economic issues has been disappointed,” said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, a left-leaning group trying to ensure that appointees are skeptical of the industries they’ll regulate.
“Progressives are in a weird situation where normal Republicans who have no relevant experience, like Gov. Nikki Haley, are essentially the most praiseworthy appointments so far,” he added.
Trump has yet to reveal his nominees for the Defense Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture Department and several other major Cabinet posts. But at this rate, with cooperation from a Republican Congress, Trump will have the support to dismantle a significant portion of President Barack Obama’s legacy and set his sights on Great Society programs that have been the linchpin of the social safety net for nearly 50 years.
The hope among conservatives is that Trump can deliver in a way that President George W. Bush did not.
“In the early 2000s, we saw a Republican president, House and Senate who did not live up to the promises that had been made throughout the 1990s and prior to that,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the grass-roots group Tea Party Patriots. “The actions Trump is taking right now with the transition are showing us he intends to live up to his promises, especially those in the Contract with the American Voter.”