AMERICA’s 45th president went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, a gathering of influential people in favour of unfashionable ideas like free trade and world peace, and gave a speech. The performance was a little low energy, as Donald Trump once said of Jeb Bush, but 90% of his speech could have been given by almost any other American president. Based on the speech alone, you might conclude that Mr Trump is not so different from any other American president or, at least, less different than you had been led to believe during his first year in office. You would be wrong.

A useful way to think about Mr Trump’s politics is as a collection of impulses, usually contradictory, untroubled by a need to be overly consistent. One strong impulse is to stand up for the kind of forgotten Americans who he believes put him in the White House: think white, Midwestern people who lost their steady jobs to outsourcing (and forget that many such folks voted for his opponent). This impulse gives rise to the America First hostility to immigration, trade and…Continue reading