Donald Trump and the State of the Republican Party
Every primary season, it becomes more and more apparent that voters replace their convictions for those of the candidate that is most likely to win. The policies change, the beliefs flip-flop, and the excuses made. The Republican Party, much like its Democratic counterpart, has changed its ideals and principles to fit the changing political climate many times in the hopes of coming out on top. However, the presence of these tactics denotes a desperate and power hungry mentality that is not only dangerous to liberty; but also suggests that sacrificing principles to win the battle is more important than standing behind the ideas that will win the war.
The self-righteous talking points, the cries for party loyalty, and impulsive support showed each season will eventually lead to unhealthy shifts in important principles.
The Bad Beginning
On June 16, 2015, inside his Trump Tower office building in Manhattan, Donald Trump formally announced his bid for the presidential office. Throughout this time, he spoke on trade, the Republican Party establishment, and healthcare, among many other topics. Shortly before he closed his speech with “I’m running for President of the United States of America,” he said, “we’re going to have insurance for everybody, much less expensive and much better.” Did he think a room full of fiscally-minded Republicans would approve of that concept? The Republican party prides itself on being anti-entitlement, who did he think he would fool?
However, when he finished his sentence, the room filled with excited shouts. The same men and women of the right who once said “no one is entitled to anything,” and “keep your hands out of my pockets,” were then cheering at the idea of government-funded health care. These self-proclaimed “fed-up Americans” were so prepared for this billionaire businessman to lead them back toward the promised land, the “real American’s” utopia, that they were willing to sacrifice the very foundation that they had stood upon for decades.
The Republican Party is known for its anti-entitlement stances. This attitude has not changed much, despite the backlash and accusations of greed. But when then-candidate Trump unabashedly came forward in support of government-funded health care, quite a few Republican and Republican-inclined voters followed suit. He resurrected the line used in his campaign announcement, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody, much less expensive and much better…” in an interview with The Washington Post last January. This quote came over a year and a half after the official launch of his campaign, and at that point, however, any support for government-funded healthcare had seemingly died out. This notion was apparent in a March of 2016 poll, where 19 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters claimed that it was the federal government’s responsibility to provide health coverage for Americans. However, in a more recent poll, conducted in early January of 2017, that number increased to 32 percent. Making it all the more apparent that the right finds taxing the American people to pay for someone else’s insurance is a little more appealing if it comes from Donald Trump.
Paid Maternity Leave, Republican Edition?
It is a well-known fact that the hardest demographic for Republicans to win over is women. Given Trump’s lewd comments and, to put it lightly, inappropriate behavior, it’s no surprise that he had to, and continues to, try to cover his tracks to win women over. In one of his many attempts to rally women’s support, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention. In her speech, amidst countless “Make America Great Again” signs, she touched on issues relevant to working women, including the wage gap and paid maternity leave.
Not only is the pay gap something Republicans frequently dismiss as a feminist talking point, but it is also an issue which they proudly denounce as a myth. The gap and government-mandated maternity leave are two concepts that men and women of the right have fought largely, due to both being incompatible with the Party’s beliefs about a person’s right to make their own business decisions. But rather than either staying silent or dissenting here, these RNC attendees stood and applauded; and, like their responses to most things Trump did or said, these Republicans would soon voice their support for these issues on social media. It quickly became apparent that these voters were no longer concerned that this concept would either drive small businesses into the ground or force taxpayers to pay even more, and all that mattered to them was a Trump victory.
Free Trade [dis]Agreements
“America first” and “bring back our jobs” are two of many well-known Trump campaign slogans. These statements are the basis for an adamantly anti-free trade and protectionist stance, one of which our president and his devoted followers have taken vocally, using the reasoning that America is “getting ripped off on trade.”
Trade and trade agreements are an incredibly important part of providing affordable goods to the average American. Free trade opens the door to new opportunities, innovations, and better, more affordable products. This fact is a core principle of economics. However, it seems protectionists like Trump don’t see it quite the same way. “Republican” used to be a proxy word to describe someone who was pro-free trade because of the Party’s longtime defense of the idea. Now, it appears that Republicans are no longer so enthused about the concept.
In May of 2015, just one month before Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency, pollsters asked Republican and Republican-leaning voters what they thought of trade agreements, 39 percent thought them to be bad, and 51 percent thought them to be good. However, in August of 2016, it was found that Republicans and Republican-leaners now thought in stark contrast to their original view, with 61 percent seeing trade deals to be a bad thing and just 32 percent a good thing. Could one man have that much of an effect on the people identifying with the Republican party?
“I Know It, You Know It, Everybody Knows It”
The Republican Party contorts itself to fit the mold of the values of whoever is most popular within its confines. This issue has reached the point at which even Republicans are aware of the slippery slope they are on. A poll conducted from November to December in 2016 found that a combined 79 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters thought the campaign and election of Donald Trump caused either major or minor changes in the party’s principles. The same poll asked if the Party represented their values, 93 percent said that it did now, in contrast to only 87 percent in September. What caused this result? Was it faith restored due to victory? The realization that they think Donald Trump now represents their principles best? Or is this just the result of an influx of first-time GOP voters?
The effects of and reactions to Trump’s election should not go unnoticed. It is becoming far too commonplace to see once-principled Republicans and conservatives back down from what they believe in support of the mainstage candidate, and in turn, begin to justify these things to themselves. The epidemic of allowing powerful politicians and public figures to change voters’ personal viewpoints cannot continue. If the right continues to change who it is this often and this much, all it could take is someone a bit bigger with a little more cultlike appeal than Donald Trump to divide and derail the cause even more. The Republican Party must tread cautiously in the coming election, or they might just see themselves becoming what they have fought so hard to stop.