When I’m right, I’m right. When I’m wrong, I’m often very wrong. I’ve been blessed with the former more often than being humbled by the latter, but in the case of Donald Trump’s coziness with the Republican Establishment, I’m ashamed that I didn’t see the writing on the wall months ago. I’m sure many did, but it never even crossed my mind until I watched every televised moment of the Republican National Convention. Like a revelation that makes me literally smack my own forehead for being so blind to it before, I finally realized why the GOP has been embracing Trump since a few weeks before the Iowa caucus and why they’ve embraced him cautiously but heartily ever since.
In short, he’s their ticket to rid the party of the chains that have been holding it back for decades (at least in the Establishment’s opinion). Trump is, in their view, the end of the Republican party being associated with the fight for social conservatism. With Trump, the GOP is unhindered by the Christian right albatross that hung from their neck and prevented them from winning a large number of elections for five decades. Republican candidates can state their personal preference, but they no longer have to make vote-losing empty promises to give them conservative credibility. Trump has shifted the conversation towards populist credibility instead.
Trump is political freedom for the Republican party. Now, they can embrace the liberal ideas that are favored by populists.
- Transgender Bathrooms – Trump’s all about freedom of identity but still uses the ambiguous “leave it to the states” sound bite which is code for “I’m not going to do anything about it one way or the other.”
- Abortion – Trump claims to be pro-life but it’s a fight that he won’t take on as President. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and he won’t be touching that issue with a ten foot pole if elected.
- Traditional Marriage – an antiquated notion and not on his agenda whatsoever. SCOTUS already decided so it’s not his problem.
- Religious Liberty – good for a Tweet or a sound byte but he knows that as long as he stays to the right of Hillary Clinton, he doesn’l t have to say much other than promising good judges appointed to the Supreme Court and botched attempts of exuding religiosity. Unfortunately, he told private donors the day after receiving the nomination that he’d be adding more names to his list of judges to consider to fill one, two, or three holes. Since he had a great list with conservatives on it already that could have filled the entire court, it’s peculiar that now of all times he’s going to be adding more names.
This was a convention of firsts, and not just because of Trump. The RNC was able to shine some of their hidden colors loud and proud this time around. Unlike any other convention, they can talk about defending LGBTQ rights (while avoiding privacy and safety concerns for women and children) and get cheers from a populist crowd. Unlike other conventions, they can have a prayer to the god of Islam and everyone suddenly feels inclusive. Unlike other conventions, they can discuss gender pay gaps, covering daycare expenses, and mandating pay scales without a plan of how they’ll pay for it and the people will cheer because Ivanka is their newest darling registered Democrat (though for her speech she essentially identified as a non-binary millennial free-thinking construction-site-walking politico).
Just in case anyone started sniffing around their liberal agenda, they got a “Christian conservative” in Mike Pence to be the other end of the ticket. The Vice President has no power, of course, but it’s great for show. Joe Biden is pro-life. That really helped out the cause the last eight years.
The bonus for the GOP is that Trump is very much in favor of big government and big spending. While everyone was focused on the convention, Trump’s team quietly abandoned over 2/3rds of the tax cuts that helped convince some naive conservatives that he’d be a fiscally responsible nominee. He was… up until the point that he had the nomination. Then, he dropped $7 trillion in tax cuts and nobody noticed because the circus was in town.
I assessed the GOP’s embrace of Trump and assumed that he made himself appear malleable to their wishes. That was likely a small part of it, but more importantly they saw in him an opportunity once and for all to detach the party from the anchors of social conservatism that had made Independents vote against them in multiple races for a long time. Now, they’ve got themselves a social justice warrior in Republican clothing. The days of big budget Republican initiatives are in style and ready to win elections. This is why we need a new conservative party.