A commentator on the news asked that question, in passing (i.e., not to start a new discussion), yesterday. She was a centrist Democrat from Ohio, not a particularly leftist type, and it wasn't actually a question so much as a notion.
So I will take up the notion. Has Trump changed the Republican Party for the future?
I don't actually think I am one who believes that Barack Obama pushed the Democrats to the hard left. That's because I think they were already there, and his nomination simply crystallized something in their party that was already there. He got little or no pressure from what passes for centrism in the Democrats, and just did what he wanted for two years until the nation elected a Republican Congress specifically to stop him.
That's why I don't think the party itself has changed all that much. Nominally, it stands for the same things it has always stood for -- free markets, strong defense, moral definition, rule of law. Where I think President Trump is changing things is by exposing the fact that elected Republicans do not appear interested in actually legislating those things that the party stands for.
Ronald Reagan also was elected in a blue-collar revolution, but there were differences. For one obvious one, Reagan did not get to start off with a Republican house on either side of Congress, so he had to cajole and bargain to get the tax cuts he felt were necessary to get us out of the awful Carter economy -- and was helped by the fact that the Democrats leading Congress weren't big fans of Jimmy Carter, either, and felt no need to defend his legacy.
I actually suspect that the Democrats in power knew that the tax cuts would indeed stimulate the economy and give them more money to spend -- ironic, because they did get more to spend, and spent 50% again more than the tax cuts brought in.
But I digress, a bit.
Trump's blue-collar revolution, the one that carried states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, was because the ideas he put forth mapped to the principles that the voters believed in -- principles and values they liked, coupled with ideas that could be implemented to make those principles reality. A strong defense ... a wall to protect us from illegal immigration ... tax cuts to stimulate the dead Obama economy ... repealing Obamacare to bring insurance costs back and afford choice in policy types.
We cannot answer as to whether Trump has changed the GOP, because the jury is still out. This president is trying to do what he was elected to do; it remains to be seen if the party -- i.e., the Republicans in Congress -- are willing to what the president was elected by the nation to do and actually pass the legislation reflecting those aims.
There is clearly tension; just this week President Trump yet again called on the Senate and its majority leader to scrap the 60-votes rule for cloture and go to a simple majority. He is essentially calling them out, saying that by refusing to do so they are keeping their excuse to do nothing -- "We can't put THAT bill forward; it would never get 60 votes" rather than actually accomplishing anything. The 3/5 majority to stop a filibuster is simply an excuse to avoid action they could be blamed for.
Can Trump change the GOP? Well, he has already made the Senate leadership look embarrassingly unwilling to do anything legislative -- multiple times; this must have been at least the third tweet calling for the 3/5 rule to be removed, which Mitch McConnell could simply do without effective Democratic opposition.
I want the GOP to change -- not the grass roots but the legislative leadership. And even at that, I can't blame Speaker Ryan nearly as much; I sincerely believe he wants to pass laws and get stuff done, but he has to deal with an intransigent Senate he cannot politically call out. But I want the leadership structure of the party to decide it needs to be responsive to those who keep them in power.
It will take a Donald Trump; it took him to lift the curtain on the ugly reality of the swamp and it will take him, or someone like him, to make it happen.
I wish him well.
Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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