Is Trump a true Republican?

 

 

Trump undoubtedly set out to be different; nothing typifies his Presidency quite like the fact that he spent more on baseball caps baring his slogan than political polling. [1]Trump mimicked conventional Republicans like Marco Rubio dubbing him “Little Marco”[2] and showed little interest in traditional campaign methodology. Trump conversely did resonate with the Republican base propelling him stunningly to becoming the nominee, evidencing that parts if not all of his Presidency bare the mark of the G.O.P. This begs the question of whether he used the Republican Party to become President or set out to be a Republican President.

 

The Differences within the Campaign

Beginning with the slogan “Make America Great Again”, an integral feature within the campaign, his desire to create a different form of Presidency was made explicit and clear to the American voter. The literary significance of “again” demonstrates the belief within the Trump agenda that something within American society had been lost and must be recovered. However, this is not normal Republican sentiment because it is traditional for the party to speak of the greatness of America rather than the desire to alter the makeup of the country. “Make America Great Again” also alludes to another irregularity of the Trump administration because the inclusion of the word “make” indicates that the role of government is to rebuild American infrastructure. This contrasts with previous Republican administrations who sought to achieve to differing levels the ideal of ‘rugged individualism’.[3] This vision for America is incompatible with previous G.O.P Presidents because Trump’s ideology necessitates a strong President able to direct the country in a satisfactory manner, rather than relying upon the American people to “fix their own” domestic problems.[4] The slogan is also provocative because the role of the individual decreases whereas the government is enhanced in its importance in solving the problems across America.

 

Moreover the campaign itself did not enjoy the full support of senior Republican officials. Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican during the Obama administration as well as Mitt Romney the previous nominee, refused to campaign alongside Trump in order to help him achieve the Presidency. Mitt Romney’s decision to voice support for the Libertarian Party[5] demonstrates the establishment Republican belief that Trump was unfit to serve as US President. This adheres to the idea that the promises and ideology which dominated much of Trump’s campaign divorced themselves from Republican ideology to such an extent that leaders of the party could not affiliate themselves with the Republican Brand Trump offered. The refusal of John McCain to campaign alongside Trump following the infamous New York Times tapes demonstrates that high-level Republican politicians did not trust Trump to deliver on previously socially conservative positions. The tapes also reveal that the ‘moral’ position of the Republican Party adhering to traditional views on family ignored by Trump was not an attempt to rebrand the party but rather the natural consequence of having someone outside the Washington political climate launch a campaign to become President.

 

The influence and growth of the Alt-right

This vacuum in his campaign, with little establishment personnel around to assist, was filled by a base of supporters termed as the Alt-right, who were borne out of frustration with the political climate within America. The terminology demonstrates a willingness to break not only from normal politics in order to establish an “America First” isolationist policy, but also an attempt to create an alternative right wing ideology not normally seen within Conservatism. The rise of the Alt-right within the Trump campaign demonstrates that Trump and his ideas separate themselves from traditional Republicanism because those who support them are not conventional Conservatives. The rise and usage of the alt-right demonstrates the ability of the campaign to succeed whilst shedding normal Republican support, both those abhorred by Trump as a person and by those who disagreed with his policies, and replace them with a powerful and vocal base.

 

Milo Yiannopolous a figure on the Alt-right, hoped that a Trump Presidency would lead to the destruction of both political parties in America, rather than a continuation of Republican ideas across America.[6] This reveals that many who supported Trump not only did not hold loyalties to the party but also actively wished for it to be destroyed. The more anti-establishment Trump supporters saw him as a mechanism through which to dismantle a broken socio-political climate rather than an attempt to continue it. The rise of the Alt-right also indicates the ability of Trump to build a base through which to achieve power even though he achieved less votes and Republican support than the previous candidate Mitt Romney did. This demonstrates that Trump in many senses was a divorce from Republicanism because both his success was not due to party loyalists but rather those normally politically disenfranchised and disillusioned with politics.

 

Conversely what intrigues political columnists is that this anti-establishment feeling replicated itself within the mainstream of Trump’s campaign. Rather than just a few disaffected American who supported Trump and attended his rallies, at the centre of the campaign could be found integral figures like his now Chief of Staff Steve Bannon. As a self-dubbed “Leninist”[7] and previous editor of the Alt-right Breitbart News, Bannon sought to decimate conventional politics and replace it with an entirely new political system. This highlights the idea that Trump does dissociate himself from Republicanism because both those who supported and ran his campaign held deep resentments towards both the political system and establishment Republicans. This sets Trump apart from his party because his campaign promised to many the ability to vanquish America from the “corruption of Washington” and reset the values to which the party upholds. In his ability to present the idea of “draining the swamp,”[8] Trump resets the convention that has dominated American politics for numerous years. Furthermore, by associating his campaign as “Brexit plus plus”[9], Trump’s anti-establishment brand of politics mirrored that promoted by key proponents of Brexit who sought to build a cross party consensus rather than adhering to party politics. The usage of Brexit plays an important role in establishing the makeup of Trump’s ideas because his explicit distrust of political organisations be it the EU or Washington sets him apart from orthodox Republicanism.

 

The promise of Trump

This anti-establishment message assisted Trump in achieving his victory because he was able to contrast himself with the seemingly robotic campaign of “crooked”[10] Hillary Clinton, who represented the brand of politics Trump sought to remove. Trump represented a change in politics compared to the politics of the “establishment” from both political parties. This is shown by the methodology by which he attempted to garner the support of Afro-Americans, a group who traditionally do not support the Republicans. He asked, “What do you have to lose?”[11] over supporting him as a candidate. This proclamation indicates a differentiation from Republican ideology because Trump showed both Republican and Democrat administrations as being ill suited to improving their lives. Likewise, Trump distanced himself from mainstream Conservatism, normally promoted by the Republican Party, because he argued that a well-managed government would be the solution to peoples’ problem rather than the “government being the problem”, which Ronald Reagan depicted. Trump’s distancing from a tradition of the Republican Party, by enhancing the size of the state demonstrate that his election was not a demonstration of support for small state ideas but rather an expression of immense dissatisfaction with the entire political system.

 

However it is too simplistic to state that because Trump attracted those normally put off by the political system within America he offers an entirely different in ideology to other Republican Presidents. Rather as shown by his persistent denial of supporting the Iraq War[12] something perpetrated by George Bush as well as numerous other statements belittling other decisions made by Republicans, Trump undoubtedly set out to make his campaign ideology different by confessing the mistakes of his party.  Hence, Trump, by distancing himself from the decisions made by the previous Republican President George Bush he was able to portray his political ideology as different and not a repetition of the previous “establishment” mistakes.

 

Trump’s campaign sought to yield disgruntled Americans’ support across all forms of politics and livelihoods. This was proven by Trump’s seeking of those who supported the also anti-establishment Bernie Sanders[13] whose message he mirrored in talking about both the “Washington elite” and failed political system. In obtaining an entirely different coalition of voters, it can be seen that an atypical Republican message did not attract typical Republican voters, rather those who supported him were disenfranchised entirely by the American system.

 

Moreover this attempt to build a base to propel Trump to victory was ultimately successful as places like Wisconsin presumed to be safe Democrat States, swung in Trump’s direction. This flew in the face of many political commentators such as Nate Silver, because they had taken for granted the ability of the Trump campaign to yield differing voters. Following the election, Hilary Clinton was criticised by Democrats including President Obama who saw her failure to campaign in Wisconsin as the justification for her failure to secure victory. Thus the simplified depiction of Trump as a man of the people rather than a conventional Republican succeeded in securing him the Presidency and differentiating from conventional politics.

 

The distancing of Trump from conventional Republicanism is amplified by the rhetoric used by the Trump campaign which included the famed promise to “build a wall”[14] This rhetoric served many purposes in enabling the Trump campaign to be successful where others had failed. First it enabled Trump to build a successful and well-motivated base to counteract the well-oiled Democrat election machine and consistently attract attention to the campaign. Secondly the campaign promise also assisted Trump in being able to garner the support of people who had previously backed President Obama or had failed to turn out to vote for Romney[15] because he was seen as candidate willing to address the issues facing America. Furthermore those disenfranchised who had not voted for Mitt Romney in the previous election came out in greater numbers to support Trump.  Thirdly linguistically, it also showed that Trump was prepared to speak without politically correct language in discussing immigration which allowed the perception of difference to increase. Those unhappy at the enabling of the breaking of American systems saw absolute justification in backing Trump. Both the rhetoric and the campaign promise served as reminders to the American people that Trump was able to defy ‘political correctness’ and normal campaign rules in order to achieve the Presidency. By rewriting the campaign mechanisms which had dogged other Republican candidates Trump was able to distinguish his Presidential campaign and mark his candidacy as different.

 

 

Foreign Policy Difference

Stating that his campaign was merely different to other Republicans diminishes the other steps taken to distance the campaign from ordinary Conservative politics. Perhaps the most significant divorce was in the area of foreign policy where Trump sought to reset the hawkish Republican policy promoted by numerous Republican Presidents and candidates. Bizarrely President Obama showed this contrast best by exposing the outdated Republican attitude in the 2012 election. The most poignant example was the debate Obama had with Mitt Romney[16], his Presidential rival, where he stated that the “1980s want their foreign policy back”, when Romney mentioned the threat of Russia to America. Here Obama effectively exposed the outdated beliefs of the Republican Party with regard to Russia and inadvertently warned Trump that this attitude was helping cost the Republican Party elections. Coupled with this was the widespread belief that Republican foreign policy was outdated in its entirety, Trump had a relatively simple mechanism through which to alter the party. Trump ran with this idea far more than expected and made the resetting of relations with Russia an integral aspect of his campaign, by stating that Hilary Clinton had failed spectacularly over the handling of Russia. Citing Vladimir Putin as someone who has done “a really great job outsmarting our country”[17], Trump demonstrated his complete indifference to what was perceived as an incoherent direction of foreign policy. Especially with regard to Russia, Trump exposed his ability to begin a new direction of foreign policy within America to create a ‘revolution’ in both political action and language. This contrast exposes the difference in language and action between his predecessors Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney who both viewed Russia as the natural enemy of the USA. By attempting to drastically alter relations Trump undoubtedly drastically altered the foreign policy conventions which are usually naturally associated with the party.

 

 

 

Fiscal Similarity with the Party

Juxtaposed to this is the numerous positions Trump took which are interchangeable with the policies of other Republican Presidents and candidates. Initially this is revealed through both his views on taxation and the policies he is attempting in order to reduce the burden on the voter. His ideological opposition to tax seen through his declaration at the second debate that not paying tax made him a “smart”[21] man thus mirroring the ideological position of Republicans that taxation and the role of government should be reduced. Although his tax proposals to some Republicans do not go far enough, his policies do represent an ideological shift from those of his predecessor Barack Obama.  Furthermore his trust in wealthy associates such as Steve Mnuchin[22], (with a net worth of some $300 million,) also shows that Trump’s previous position of “draining the swamp[23]” has been somewhat replaced by surrounding himself with perceived experts.  This also radiates somewhat with conventional Republican policy, because rather than making economic decisions solely as a President, he is dependent upon those who are perceived as having expertise on the economy. Even to Trump critics his taxation policy, attempts to replicate those of Reagan thus demonstrating that his attitude towards government and its expenditure is not opposed to that of normal Conservative policy. As Dominic Rushe argues, stating that his fiscal policy was “basically a huge tax cut for the rich[24]” Trump faces the identical criticism to which other candidates received with regard to their taxation policy. Finally, the desire of Trump to simplify the American tax system into three distinct levels from seven and slash corporation tax to 15%[25] is the fulfilment of the long-held desire of the Republican Party to both encourage business and simplify the tax code.  On taxation, Trump although holding certain differences with the party does not largely differ from the ideological position. Rather the unorthodox manner through which he won the Presidency enables him to fulfil pledges and promises of the Party which other leading figures have been unable to facilitate.

 

Foreign Policy Similarity with the Party

A further area in which Trump initiate Republican ideals is through aspects of his foreign policy. Although disliked by staunch isolationists like Rand Paul[26], his defence of Israel and pledge to move the embassy to Jerusalem is widely popular within the Republican Party.   This is an integral point when comprehending the rise of Trump because he was able to use the anger directed at Obama surrounding the “terrible” Iran Deal and portray himself as adhering to conventional Republican ideals on the topic. By declaring himself, the most “pro-Israel”[27] candidate on the debate stage Trump was able to normalise his candidacy because he passed the “acid test”[28] on Republicans. His positions on Israel also proved popular because it allowed him to resonate with a political party, which felt America had stepped back on the world stage and enabled Trump to reaffirm America’s importance as the most powerful nation on earth. The feeling surrounding Israel was that Obama had betrayed America’s most valuable ally in the Middle East and thus Trump offered a natural solution to this problem. Furthermore, by appointing a pro-settlement Ambassador to Israel, Trump was able to prove his discontinuation of the policies seen by Obama. This enabled Trump to be a successful perpetrator of Republican ideals because not only did he distance himself from the policies of Obama but also continued to hold widespread Republican ideals thus enabling him to normalise his candidacy.

 

Healthcare

Throughout his campaign, Trump also spoke of the disaster of Obamacare and his ability to correct the situation as a businessman. However, in order to determine whether this is an initiation of Republican ideals, one must split his actions in government and the campaign promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare”[29]. Initially it is essential to comprehend the damage which potentially would have normally been caused by his interview as a Democrat in which he expressed support for a single-payer healthcare, which was a vastly different position to normal Republican policy. However, Trump latched upon the enormous sentiment against Obamacare in order to increase his popularity which resounded even amongst those who pledged within the party to never vote for Trump. The description of the effects of Obamacare by Trump could have been from any Republican commentator or politician post the 2012 election. Thus, originally Trump undoubtedly appeared to be a continuation of Republican ideals. However, Trump was distinctly different in his actions in the legislation leading to Trumpcare because numerous tenets of his new idea mirrored those introduced by the previous President. This is an explanation as to why the Freedom Caucus of the right of the Party were hesitant towards the Bill and ultimately voted it down first time around. Although Trumpcare does remove the disliked Employer Mandate  the fact that it continues most of the taxes needed to facilitate Obamacare up until 2023 demonstrate that to traditional Republicans it does not go far enough in removing the role of the state in determining peoples’ healthcare. Additionally the failure of the proposal within Republican controlled Houses demonstrates that they are not widely popular within the party and numerous alterations are needed until it becomes distinct Republican policy. The confusions and contradictions, which the Healthcare Bill highlight, are a representation of the blurred lines that make up Trump’s ideology.

 

Conclusion

Trump’s road to the Presidency was unique and rewrote many of the rules which normally define Presidential elections, hence there is immense speculation as to how he will act as President. Ultimately Trump does divorce himself from Republican policy which is what has lead to the immense splits seen within the party and thus he is an exception to the norm expected with regard to Republican rule. However, due to the strength of “establishment” Republicans such as Paul Ryan it is uncertain as to whether the Trump Presidency alongside a Republican House and Senate will initiate Republican ideals, but it is fundamentally certain that Trump, the Commander in Chief of the entire operation, is not fully on board with initiating Republican ideals.

 

Article by Marcus Foux

 

Bibliography:

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/25/donald-trumps-campaign-has-spent-more-on-hats-than-on-polling/?utm_term=.5c41a0f4446a

[2] http://observer.com/2016/03/11-hilarious-little-marco-memes-mocking-rubios-florida-loss/

[3] http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/rugged-individualism/

[4] Ben Shapiro, Bullies

[5] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/28/politics/gary-johnson-libertarians-mitt-romney/index.html

[6]https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=milo+yiannopoulos+dave+rubin&&view=detail&mid=3360CF8E49C05ED11ABE3360CF8E49C05ED11ABE&FORM=VRDGAR

[7]   https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/06/lenin-white-house-steve-bannon

[8]  http://time.com/donald-trump-drain-swamp/

[9]https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=brexit+plus+plus+plus&oq=brexit+plus+plus&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0.4327j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[10] https://newrepublic.com/minutes/132765/donald-trump-come-clinton-nickname-crooked-hillary

[11] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/08/22/donald-trump-to-african-american-and-hispanic-voters-what-do-you-have-to-lose/?utm_term=.773ce754059a

[12] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jun/22/donald-trump/trump-still-wrong-his-claim-opposed-iraq-war-ahead/

[13] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/29/politics/donald-trump-bernie-sanders/index.html

[14] http://order-order.com/2016/11/09/trump-increased-black-latino-vote/

[15] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/trumpometer/promise/1397/build-wall-and-make-mexico-pay-it/

[16]https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/omribenshahar/2016/11/

[17] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS2a44F5TgM

[18] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/14/trump-supreme-court-abortion-same-sex-marriage

[19] http://www.dailywire.com/news/3896/shapiro-i-will-never-vote-donald-trump-heres-why-ben-shapiro

[20] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/

[21] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-tax-returns-first-Presidential-debate-live-hillary-clinton-a7332041.html

[22] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Mnuchin

[23] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/06/27/bolling-why-trump-must-dare-to-drain-swamp-and-four-ways-can-do-it.html

[24] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/26/trump-tax-cuts-proposal-deductions-brackets

[25] https://www.ft.com/content/7a8226f2-2928-11e7-9ec8-168383da43b7?mhq5j=e2

[26] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rand_Paul

[27] http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/30148/Default.aspx

[28] https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/the-republican-primaries-and-the-israel-acid-test/

[29] http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-updates-everything-President-trump-says-gop-campaign-to-repeal-and-1491177476-htmlstory.html

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