Issues & Insights

Is Trump ‘Growing In Office’? Let’s Hope Not

I&I Editorial

Democrats and never-Trumpers keep warning that if President Donald Trump wins reelection, he will only grow more dictatorial. The more realistic risk is that he will shift leftward, or as the pundit class puts it, “grow in office.” The two announcements he made in the past week are a worrisome sign.

“Growing in office” is always the concern when a conservative spends too much time in Washington. Eventually, the nonstop pressure to conform to the government-centered swamp tends to overtake even the most rock-ribbed conservatives. Once they give in, they’re treated like the prodigal son. All grown up.

For example, when asked in early 2018 if Trump had grown in office, Sen. Susan Collins, a textbook establishment Republican if there ever was one, responded by saying: “I believe he’s moderated his position on a few issues.”

Which is why we took solace when Barack Obama said in his speech at this year’s Democratic convention that “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

We can only hope that Obama is right. So far, Trump has been remarkably immune to “growing in office.” If anything, he has become more conservative since winning the election – something practically unheard of in modern history.

Remember, Trump was hardly a movement conservative when he announced his candidacy. This is a guy who once said “I am pro-choice in every respect,” “Hillary Clinton is a terrific woman,” and “I’m very liberal when it comes to health care.” He’d given truckloads of money in the past to Democrats such as Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Rahm Emmanuel and Charlie Rangel.

During the primaries, he slammed conservative efforts to reform entitlements, saying “I will also defend Social Security and Medicare from the efforts of the Republicans to privatize both.”

At one point in the 2016 primaries, Trump called himself a “common-sense conservative” – a phrase alarmingly similar to George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservative.”

National Review complained that Trump was “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist.” Investor’s Business Daily editorialized that “Judging by his past — embracing Big Government and high taxes, giving cash to Hillary Clinton — Trump is a liberal non-Republican.”

But as president, Trump has scored more wins for conservatives than even President Ronald Reagan.

On the economy, his Reaganesque tax cuts and deregulation turbocharged an economy that every expert said was on a declining path. He’s appointed more conservative judges to the bench – 205 –  in less than four years than Reagan or W. each did in eight. On the environment, Trump ditched the terrible Paris Agreement and cut back Environmental Protection Agency regulations. On immigration, he’s been building his wall, while taking smart steps to eliminate loopholes that incentivize illegal border crossers.

Where George W. Bush lamented our “addiction to oil,” Trump unapologetically championed oil and gas development, turning the U.S. into the largest crude oil producer in the world. He stood firm with Israel and did what other presidents only promised – move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

While Republicans lost their nerve on repealing ObamaCare, Trump continues to argue in court for its undoing, while working at the edges of the health care law to provide families with more low-cost insurance options.

The Family Research Council praised Trump on social issues, saying he’d taken “significant action on issues of concern to social conservatives – life, family, and religious liberty.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, summed up the president’s record this way: “Trump’s successes in reducing the cost of taxes and regulations, rebuilding our military, avoiding wars of choice and changing the courts rival those of all previous Republican presidents.”

The fact that supposedly conservative never-Trumpers refuse to acknowledge any of this, or dismiss it as immaterial, is truly bizarre. That is until you realize how much they’ve “grown.”

What worries us isn’t that a second Trump term will live down to the mindless fears of the left or these never-Trumpers. It’s that Trump will, over the next four years, start “growing in office.”

We are seeing some signs of that already. In just the past week, Trump made two big announcements that should worry conservatives.

Last Thursday, he signed an order extending the moratorium on offshore drilling and extended it to Georgia and South Carolina.

This runs directly contrary to plans he announced in early 2018, which would have vastly expanded offshore drilling in areas off the East Coast that had been off-limits to energy producers for decades.

Back then, Trump was arguing, correctly, that “Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources including abundant offshore oil and natural gas resources, but the federal government has kept 94% of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production. This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions in wealth.”

When he announced plans to reverse course last week, he said the drilling ban “does so much for the state of Florida. It’s an order that I’m so proud to sign,” declaring himself “a great environmentalist.”

Then on Sunday, Trump signed an executive order requiring Medicare to consider prices paid by other industrialized countries – most of which have socialist health care systems – when setting the prices it will pay for pharmaceutical drugs.

Dozens of free-market conservative organizations – from Norquist’s group to the American Conservative Union to FreedomWorks – signed a letter blasting Trump’s order, saying that it adopts “the same socialist health care policies that you have promised to fight against” and that importing price controls from these countries “will slow medical innovation, threaten American jobs, and undermine criticism of single-payer systems.”

We can only hope that these recent decisions were driven by campaign consultants who think they will boost Trump’s reelection chances, not an indication of things to come. Trump did, after all, lay out a second-term agenda during the Republican convention that reads like a conservative wish list.

Still, assuming Trump wins – and God help us if he doesn’t – conservatives will need to make sure he doesn’t prove Obama wrong over the next four years.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • For those that understood what was happening in DC and to our country know what a huge sacrifice Trump and his family have made for America. He was/is the only person for this moment to save our America.

    People in this country still don`t understand 9/11 and the last 19 years of our government. Anyone other than Trump and you wouldn`t recognize this country.

    God bless him and his family.

  • I am not worried. Donald J. Trump is neither Republican nor Democrat.
    He is a Party unto himself The Patriot Party. He instinctively knows what to support or not support. In my opinion he has been right most of the time. We did not elect a Prophet…but DJT has phenomenal insight!

  • It is an election year, and even Trump knows this…see also his support for ethanol…

  • I must take exception to the inclusion of the Medicare EO in this discussion for the lack of awareness regarding market forces and the limited range of influence the US government has over the pricing power of foreign powers.

    Please consider that today a pharmaceutical company has effectively zero leverage when dealing with most countries. They are in a take it or leave it position (either accept the price offered by the foreign government or don’t get any sells in that country), but with a huge effective subsidy pool in the US (charge whatever you like, it’s a “free” market). With this EO the President has effectively removed that subsidy. If you sell a pill for $50 in France you’re (potentially) going to have to sell that same pill in the US for $50 now instead of $2,500 to make up the lack of margin.

    Go down the road to whenever they next negotiate pricing with France or Germany or whomever and now they have to consider that the US will no longer subsidize those countries getting such drugs for next to nothing. If you’re the CEO are you going to accept whatever low ball offer is made, or are you more likely to actually negotiate and get to a “fair” price that will see everyone in the world bearing an equitable portion of the costs you need to make a profit and pay for the next blockbuster? Now the CEO is going to have to consider if walking away from one market that wants things for “free” is better than losing out on the US market and setting the price at whatever they can get. So in the future the socialist have to pay $150 or $200 for that same pill, but then guess what, so do US patients, which means the socialists pay a little more, but the US “free” market gets to pay a lot less.

    Just another example of President Trump playing the long game to try and level the playing field around the world. Stop thinking of the linear result of a particular action, that’s not how this President thinks or acts. Think instead of a spider web and how a fly stuck in one place on the web vibrates the entire web. That’s a much better analogy to President Trump’s thinking.

  • As a comment on the prescription drug prices:
    Right now, the pharma companies use the United States as their cash cow.
    Other countries are allowed to negotiate low prices for their government healthcare drug purchases, while we in the US pay not just full boat, but an over-inflated price.
    It then gets manipulated by the government regulated insurance system, with the result that anyone who is not insured is unable to pay – and has to import from Canada or Mexico.

    It’s really a brilliant stroke to force these other countries to pay their fair share of pharma costs. If we aren’t paying the over-inflated rate any more, then the other countries will have to up the rates that they pay – which will up the rates that we pay because we’ve been brought down to parity with them.

  • Trump ran on this exact thing in 2016. He isn’t growing, you just weren’t listening, and now you’re all bent that he’s keeping his word to attack one of the sacred cows of Republican liturgy, the big pharma lobbies.

    He’s been crusading on drug prices for a long time–this is not new in any way.

  • Since we achieved energy independence without exploiting those off-shore areas, it seems logical and prudent to hold them in reserve.

  • I’m sorry, but this was a terrible piece.

    There is exactly ZERO reason to drill offshore in our most valuable waters at this point. We *export* oil at this point, and have a huge number of wells capped due to low prices, or hadn’t you heard?

    As for the pharmaceutical companies, Trump’s move was *exactly right*. No More is America going to subsidize the rest of the world on this. You drug companies are going to have to figure out how to get it done fairly, instead of what you’ve been doing: Screwing America.

    What, are you bucking to be the next Bulwark?

  • There is a good way and a bad way for a repub prez to “grow in office”. The good way, is to become more competent at the details of the job, due to experience, and picking better people, where I think Trump has indeed grown in office.
    The bad way to grow in office is to become used to living in the swamp, and decide that getting respect from other swamp creatures is a good thing, by becoming a “sensible pragmatist”. And yes, while I like “conservative” I dont like it when it is paired with any modifier, like compassinate, pragmatic, sensible, etc, except perhaps liberty conservative, unless the fake news uses hard right conservative, that is OK.

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