If President Barack Obama sought to usher America into a postracial era, it is increasingly apparent that President-elect Donald Trump is opening the door to the postideological era.
In fact, it’s nearly impossible to identify a clear ideological bent in the incoming president’s early moves. It’s probably a mistake to try, because the definitions of left and right, liberal and conservative, are being scrambled right before our eyes.
Some Trump moves so far track with his populist outsider campaign image. Others are moves a conventional conservative could make. Some on his team would have been comfortable picks by any standard-issue Republican; some could as easily have been made by a Democratic president-elect.
The emerging picture suggests only two safe predictions about the Trump presidency. The first is that there will be a continuing struggle between the populist Donald Trump, who battles the corporate world and its love of free markets above all else, and the more conventionally Republican Donald Trump, who is comfortable with the leaders of that same corporate, free-market-loving world.
The second safe prediction is that there are no safe predictions. At a Harvard University postelection conference last week, Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio said the president-elect can’t be viewed through traditional “ideological lenses.”
“Donald Trump is postideological,” he said. “His movement transcends ideology in a lot of respects.”
This also shows why the 2016 presidential election was disruptive in ways that extend well beyond Mr. Trump’s victory, momentous as that event was. We have just witnessed that rarest of things, a realigning election, in which the coalitions and prevailing ideological lines within both political parties have been shaken up and are going to be put back together in new patterns.
Mr. Trump won with the votes of blue-collar whites who once were reliably Democratic, and without the votes of many in the business world who once were reliably Republican. Democratic nomineeHillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.5 million, but her attempt to bridge the Democrats’ rising liberal wing of Bernie Sanders and the moderate wing still embodied by her husband, Bill Clinton, left everybody a bit dissatisfied. Both parties have to reconsider their ideological and geographical coalitions.