Trump a Hamiltonian? Yes and No

Luke Phillips


Amidst all the far-right hacks who write for that shameful rag of a publication, that right-wing-version-of-Upworthy called Breitbart “News,” there is at least one incredibly thoughtful, incredibly piercing thinker- James P. Pinkerton, whom I must disclose is a friend and sometime advisor of mine. Pinkerton is Breitbart’s resident Hamiltonian, laboring effectively at the obviously uphill task of convincing right-wing populists that “big-government” is compatible with conservatism, too.

Pinkerton would probably disagree with my characterization of the site, given especially that he writes for it, but I hold my case given its vehemently anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim platitudes and its general spitefulness. Let the introduction to this post serve as an enduring reminder of where the Progressive Republican League stands on hateful ethno-nationalism of any breed, including white.

Anyway, Pinkerton published a great piece arguing that Donald Trump is a Hamiltonian in some ways, particularly on his support of American manufacturing and infrastructure investments. And you know what- Pinkerton’s right! Trump’s support for American infrastructure investments and promises to conduct pro-industrial trade and tax policy (and for that matter, Bernie’s) are very much within the Hamiltonian tradition.

I definitely wouldn’t count Trump fully in the Hamiltonian tradition, because previous Hamiltonians- Clay, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Eisenhower- strove for national unity rather than pure division. There is certainly a cultural-social component of it that is much more progressive than anything any Breitbart reader could stomach. Nonetheless, Hamiltonian means can certainly be employed by populists and conservatives, and one of the tasks of Progressive Republicans should be to unite various ideological factions behind Hamiltonian policies like industrial policy and infrastructure investments- even if it means holding our noses at the social values some of them put forth.

If there’s anything I have to thank Trump for, it’s this- regardless of how the election goes (and I hope he loses,) he’s fundamentally changed the economic language of the Republican Party to a language more in favor of the working class’s interests than any that has been spoken by Republicans for decades, perhaps a century. With the final death of conservative supply-side, there’s room for more moderate Hamiltonians like us to seep in through the cracks and fill the gaps.

That creation of a vacuum we can exploit, however, doesn’t excuse Trumpian social divisiveness. So while working to move the party to the Hamiltonian center in economics, let’s remember to stand firmly against Trump’s stances on immigrants and Muslims. Human decency requires it.

On the other hand, there’s a lot in Trump’s economic agenda we can use. So let’s use it and build an economically nationalist, socially inclusive faction in the GOP.


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