There is a rift between the traditional conservative Republicans and the Trump Republicans.
The traditional conservatives think that many of Trump’s populist policies are not conservative. He is considering taxing the rich to allow the middle class to have lower taxes. He at one time favored universal health care. Trump now thinks the minimum wage should be raised. He opposes the TPP and other trade deals. He favors relaxing relations with Cuba. He says that Planned Parenthood helps many women. Trump wants to preserve Social Security and wants to give Medicare the right to negotiate drug prices.
All of these policies are popular with the public but anathema to traditional conservatives. The fact is that cutting all programs that help the poor and middle class, and giving tax cuts to the rich is not all that popular for the poor and middle class who will be harmed by those policies. The latest research indicates the poor and middle class are going backwards while the rich are getting richer. At the same time a conservative judge has ruled that no public money can be spent to help the poor and middle class with their health insurance bills without Congressional authorization for funding.
Traditional conservative policies have been crafted by the conservative think tanks who are funded by the rich and the corporations to benefit themselves. In the past they have been able to convince poor and middle class Republicans to vote against their own self interests by distracting them with religious and social issues, like gay marriage, and abortion. They have given the impression that any talk of raising taxes means raising taxes on the middle class, but in fact the only way the middle class will get a tax break is if the money comes from the rich.
The fact is that Trickle down supply side economics doesn’t work, and tax cuts to the rich end up in off shore accounts instead of creating jobs. During the last eight years the Republicans in Congress have not passed one real Job bill and have been unwilling to invest in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure mainly out of spite. They refused to do anything that was good for the country because they didn’t want President Obama to get credit for it.
The rank and file Republicans are angry because they are being left behind economically and because President Obama has been able to accomplish many good things despite the total obstructionism and downright sabotage of the Republican Congress. They tend to ignore the good and believe that Obama has destroyed America and that the country is in the worst shape ever.
President Obama was able to get health care to an additional 15 million people. He was able to reduce unemployment and increase jobs, while reducing the deficit for seventy four months straight. Corporations are making record profits, the stock market has doubled, there is no inflation, and compared to the rest of the world we are doing great in nearly every area. If they were rational, Republicans and their corporate sponsors should be overjoyed because 95% of the recovery has benefited them. But it isn’t rational. It is emotional and hate is much stronger than rational thought.
For regular people, Republican policies have been a disaster and have resulted in the worst inequality in history. Their policies destroyed the economy and resulted in instability all over the Middle East and Africa, and those unnecessary wars caused nearly every nation to dislike us and blew up the national debt. Meanwhile Democratic policies have been successful. The stimulus, while too small was able to reverse the hemorrhaging of 750,000 jobs a month while the money lasted. We have reduced military casualties to a trickle and restored much of the international good will by transitioning from unilateral bullying to international diplomacy.
Of course Republicans deny all of the good things that have been done and blame Obama for everything that has gone wrong, even if caused by Bush. But the popularity of Trump is an indication that the Republican dogma is fatally flawed. They can’t admit that the lack of jobs are due to GOP trade policies and tax policies that encourage off shoring, and poor wages are due to the destruction of labor unions. Instead they blame the lack of jobs on undocumented immigrants and think a wall will help.
The conflict between deeply held beliefs and a totally different reality creates a condition called cognitive dissonance. This creates anger and confusion. They abandon rational thought and turn instead to the stronger emotions like hatred of President Obama, and Hillary Clinton.
And then along comes Trump. He is a master at manipulation through fear and he empowers the hatred and the bigotry of the Republican faithful without resorting to the hidden dog whistle language or being restrained by political correctness. The Republican Party has now become the party that is the embodiment of our darker natures. Trump followers have become the stereotypical “ugly Americans” taking pride in their ignorance and biases. Trump has given voice to the hatred, bigotry, misogynism, xenophobia and racism, that was heretofore hidden beneath a veneer of civility. (We oughta nuke those damn illegals, bless their hearts.)
The silver lining perhaps, is that Mr. Trump is in the process of pushing the party to the left so the people and not just the rich might benefit. It is good that Republicans are finally beginning to care about inequality and beginning to realize that tax cuts for the rich will not trickle down for their benefit. The “master of the deal” would also get a recalcitrant Congress to do their jobs and cooperate to get things done for the good of the country instead of shutting down the country and discouraging any moderation.
Trump is adopting Democratic policies because they work, and because they would help the middle class. But if Trump is abandoning conservative principles what is left? What Trump would bring to the job is inexperience, ignorance, hatred, and what foreign powers and businesses hate the most, unpredictability. The worst criticisms of Trump comes from Republicans. Mac Stipanovich in his Open letter to my fellow Republicans, says:
“On a personal level, Trump is a boor, a bully, a carnival barker and an embarrassment. Politically, by intent or instinct, he is a neo-fascist — a nativist, an ultranationalist, a racist, a misogynist, an anti-intellectual, a demagogue and a palingenetic (sorry) authoritarian to whom clings the odor of the political violence he encourages.”
So who would want to be associated with all of the terrible negatives that thanks to Mr. Trump now define that party? Trump will have a hard time collecting the best and brightest to his cabinet. The people on the A list don’t want to be associated with him. The down ticket Republicans will also start disassociating themselves from him in the hope that they will not be taken down in the coming electoral disaster.
The big danger to the party now is, will their corporate sponsors continue to support them? Most businesses want to proclaim that they are for Mom and apple pie, but if they support the Republicans, now they will be associated with all that is wrong with America.