What happened to Trumpism? Sure, we still get the oh-so-Trumpy tweets, but many of the issues that Donald Trump ran on have been cast to the wayside in the 11 months (it hasn’t even been a year yet!?) of his presidency.
Trump beat his scores of Republican opponents not just because of (or despite) the force of his personality, but also because he took manifestly different positions from the GOP Twiddledees and Twiddledums of whom he made mincemeat. Yet in office, Trump has largely outsourced his domestic agenda to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. His doubling down on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, meanwhile, reversed the isolationist stance that he took for years.
This has led many commentators to say there was never such a thing as “Trumpism” at all. But that’s not true—because there actually is a world leader who is very Trumpy in ideology. He just happens to be 6,000 miles away from Washington. He’s Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, a fellow nationalist conservative.
Here are several ways that Abe has actually out-trumped Trump:
It was Trump’s tough stance on immigration that propelled his candidacy like no other issue. Yet he’s been uncharacteristically low-energy on what was once his singular focus. As Ann Coulter and others have noted, not a single brick of the wall has been laid. Refugee numbers have been curtailed, but not zeroed out. Trump also supports a legislative fix for DACA, which would legalize illegal immigrants who entered the country as children.
Shinzo Abe, on the other hand, has ensured that Japan remain wildly hostile to foreigners. Less than 2 percent of Japanese residents are foreign-born. (In the United States, that figure stands at 13 percent.) In 2016, Japan took in a grand total of 28 refugees, including just six from Syria. In the first half of this year, the country accepted three asylum applicants. Despite the fact that Japan’s population is shrinking, Abe said just last month that he has “no intention” of loosening his country’s immigration restrictions.
That the U.S. was getting a raw deal in various international accords was candidate Trump’s second-favorite ax to grind, after immigration. In office, besides withdrawing from the mooted Trans Pacific Partnership, he’s accomplished little besides hitting Canada with tariffs. The U.S. remains in NAFTA, which Trump once bashed with zeal. Trump’s much-ballyhooed tariffs against Mexico and China have yet to materialize. He’s doing pathetically badly on Chinese trade: Our trade deficit with the Chinese has soared under his leadership.
Abe, on the other hand, has kept trade barriers high. High taxes on cars with larger engines have crippled U.S. auto sales there: A paltry 15,000 American cars are sold in Japan each year. (By contrast, Japanese brands control about 25 percent of the U.S. market.) Abe slapped a massive tariff on U.S. beef imports earlier this year as well, which led to a 26 percent decline in our exports.
Economics and Wages
Trump promised to be the tribune of the “forgotten man.” He’d work to raise the living standards of middle class Americans who hadn’t seen a raise in decades. He’s done little on this score: The tax policy he’s embraced would sharply cut corporate taxes, while doing little for the middle class. His failure on immigration and trade, meanwhile, will also fail to bump up wages. He’s done nothing to make good his his promise for a massive flood of infrastructure spending.
Abe, meanwhile, has desperately been trying to raise wages. He’s unleashed a torrent of money through an ultraliberal monetary easing plan and through a $61 billion infrastructure plan. He’s urged Japanese trade unions to demand higher wages—an amazing display from a conservative leader. On taxes, he’s actually moved to help the majority of Japanese workers: He delayed a planned consumption tax, for example. Imagine if Trump had done something similar, by, for example, insisting that the tax reform bill also include a payroll tax cut in addition to corporate tax cuts.
Here the two are basically tied. Both have corruption scandals swirling around them. And both are teetotalers with an affinity for golf.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard