At first glance Donald Trump seems to check off each box in a Republican’s wish list for President. He is bombastic, aggressive, unafraid to speak his mind, and willing to shake up the political order. Unfortunately, none of this tells us what beliefs or convictions would guide his presidency.
Trump’s political history is a jumbled mess of “I want to be this, now I want to be that.” Put more simply, it’s an ideology of “what’s good for me?” This ideology seems to have guided Trump’s thinking when it comes to the political sphere.
To be fair, Donald Trump is not the only political business figure to follow such a strategy. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby was a Democrat before he became a Republican. More geographically relevant to Trump, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a registered Democrat when he ran for Mayor in 2001 who knew he could not win the party’s primary, so he ran as a reform minded Republican.
Democrats seem to realize this faster than Republicans. After Trump’s nasty battle with Senator John McCain (R.-Arizona), a man who was a prisoner of war, Democrats piled on. Hillary Clinton called Trump “shameful” in response to his comments that McCain isn’t a hero.
Tuesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) called Trump’s comments on immigration “disgusting.” Of course neither Hillary or Reid have any partisan motivation to attack Trump and link him to the entire Republican party– You know, the same people that gave us Hispanic Governors in New Mexico and Nevada, a Hispanic Senator from Florida and South Carolina’s first black Senator since Reconstruction.
Republicans have repudiated Trump. Bush, Rubio, Perry, even Cruz have called Trump’s comments on immigration varying forms of the concept of demagoguery. They should also point out another reason why they are repudiating him. He has never been a Republican.
A cursory view of Trump’s history finds his political allegiance has fit at times of convenience. Americans can change their political allegiances (see examples above) but none come close to Trump. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican who during the last 28 years of their life has variously listed his voter registration as Republican, Independence Party, Democrat, Republican again, and (as recently as 2012) registered himself in New York as “decline to state.” Oh and Trump briefly ran for President as a Reform Party candidate.
Trump’s political giving also tells a tale of a donor with mixed convictions. Until as recently as four years ago Trump gave significantly more cash to Democrats than Republicans. These were not centrist, middle of the road Democrats but liberals including Charlie Rangel, John Kerry, Edward Kennedy and the women he would likely face if he gets to the general election, Hillary Clinton. According to F.E.C. records, Trump donated $1.3 million between 1989 and 2011, 54 percent of it going to Democrats. Since 2012, however, federal records show that Trump has given $463,450 to Republicans and only $3,500 to Democrats.
Ideologically, Trump does not fit into the GOP camp either. He is a pro-gay marriage, pro-choice turned anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage candidate. He was highly critical of Republican positions during the Iraq War and his foreign policy views are far from the party’s mainstream.
So, considering Trump is not a Republican why is he running as one? One explanation could be the Rachel Dolezal school of thought where Trump feels like a Republican so he is one. Still, he seems to not be able to help himself from fawning over Democrats. He praised former Democratic Congressman and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for his stewardship of Chicago as Mayor.
Another explanation and this is more likely is that New York billionaires feel they can do whatever they want. “Hey, Bloomberg did it so why not me,” seems an entirely plausible line of reasoning for Trump. Or, as some Republicans believe, he is a plant from the Clinton camp to paint every Republican as an anti-immigrant, racist bigot.
Finally, perhaps Trump finally broke with the Democratic Party on the issues he cares most about (obviously not gay marriage or abortion). Maybe Obama’s policies relating to business finally ticked him off, perhaps it was the Democrats group orientated identify politics or something else. Regardless, Trump certainly seems to be a Republican now, in tone not temperament.
Trump is certainly running for President as a Republican. But he’s not a Republican. On the major social and foreign policy issues the party has united around Trump used to be on the opposite side. He still supports Obamacare for goodness sakes! His Republican opponents would be smart to point these things out, knock him down a peg and turn the debate away from Trumpism and back to how to make America great again.