Throughout the campaign there were two distinct versions of Donald Trump. A moderate would be deal maker and a nativist anti immigrant hardliner. Different wings of the Republican Party were repelled by his more populist tone as they had long been driven by an ideological desire to significantly reduce taxes and on the back of social spending. The nativist and anti-globalization sentiment was laid on stronger by Trump than the average Republican, but Republicans laid the groundwork for such a backlash for decades. Now that Trump and the Republican Party control the entire US government, the Frankenstein monster of policy positions that is Trump’s Republican Party is bringing the American people the worst of both worlds.
For a while during the primary and into the general election it was possible to paint a picture of Donald Trump as a moderate. Rough around the edges and bombastic sure, but not an ideologue and as a “dealmaker” it was easy to see Donald Trump potentially becoming a somewhat outlandish centrist. A Republican who was willing to tax the rich and spend on infrastructure, save medicaid, medicare, and social security, while cutting back on government waste, consistently Donald Trump billed himself as a new breed of Republican. A more populist message that resonated deeply with the American people and ran starkly opposed to the Heritage Foundation or Paul Ryan types who had run the Republican Party since Reagan.
There was also the nativist strain to Donald Trump that seemed conservative in a way that compelled many Republican voters to support him early on and in their eyes meshed quite well with the economic nationalism Trump promoted. It also set him apart from the average Republican who supported a stronger presence on the global stage and more measured talking points designed to appeal to a more diverse America. Unfortunately for the Republican Party they seem to be stuck with their broken economic policy and the racism they seemed dead set on turning away from following Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012.
Instead of getting a moderate bent on populist reform and hard line immigration policy the American people have received Reaganomics unlike anything seen in decades. The Republican Party is left with an even deeper fracture and a bigger divide between itself and the voters it so desperately needs to woo for long term electoral success. America is left in state of dysfunction with one of the two major political parties stuck in a number of positions that it clearly cannot hold long term and none of the redeeming qualities that Donald Trump or the post Mitt Romney Republican Party brought to the table are anywhere to be seen.
It must be noted that those redeeming qualities were few and far between, but broken into smaller pieces it was possible to combine Trumpism and the post Mitt Romney Republican Party ideals in a way that formed a comprehensive ideology that could feasibly lift up some number of Americans. A party bent on stabilizing insurance markets, increasing infrastructure spending, bringing meaningful immigration reform, and overhauling the American tax system, all while leaving popular American social programs alone, could have done very well in today’s political climate. It was possible to imagine Trump’s Republican Party becoming that party. The rhetoric was there, but instead Trump and the Republican Party have managed to double down on the most problematic elements of an already problematic marriage.
The economic populism of Trump has been replaced with an emboldened Republican establishment hoping to pass the most regressive economic policy imaginable, hoping to take advantage of a small window with Republicans holding all the power. Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have the policy chops or the political will to bring his populist rhetoric to actualization, but he has doubled down on the nativism which set him apart. Furthermore the outlandish twitter rants and general lack of respect for civil society is as present as ever, with the Republican Party standing by quietly hoping to pass their extreme tax cuts.
For months it was possible to imagine a more moderate version of the Republican Party. It was possible to hope for a more presidential Donald Trump, at the very least a more mild mannered twitter ranter. Instead the American people are left with a Frankenstein monster of policy positions that nobody really voted for, but everyone should have seen coming.