Has Trump Fundamentally Shaped the GOP?

Robert Brooks Contributor
Has Trump Fundamentally Shaped the GOP?
Read Time: approx. 3:51

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Has Trump Fundamentally Shaped the GOP? “The Republican National Committee will go without a traditional policy platform at the GOP convention, saying instead that it ‘will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda,'” Mike Murphy reports for MarketWatch. “In a statement issued Sunday, the RNC said it adopted a resolution to go without a platform due to the difficulties presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the convention to significantly scale back. It is highly unusual for a major party to entirely forgo a platform. Traditionally, party platforms are used to formally lay out the party and candidate’s ideas, beliefs, and goals. In 2016, the GOP platform was 54 pages long. This year’s Democratic platform is 91 pages long.” The question then becomes, has Trump and “Trumpism” fundamentally shaped the GOP? Here’s what both sides are saying:

On the rightGerald F. Seib writes for the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday Essay that, “For almost four decades, the conservative movement was defined by one man, Ronald Reagan, and his movement, the Reagan Revolution.” This was defined as fiscal conservatism, small government, and supply-side economics, but “then four years ago, it all changed. Donald Trump ran in 2016 and swamped a sprawling Republican field of more conventional conservatives. In doing so, he didn’t merely win the nomination and embark on the road to the White House. He turned Republicans away from four decades of Reagan-style, national-greatness conservatism to a new gospel of populism and nationalism.” Summarizing the article on Apple News Today, Shumita Basu outlines Seib’s analysis saying that “Trump understood something in 2016 about Republican voters that other Presidential candidates didn’t. He understood that a growing number of working class Americans felt ignored, they felt left out, and that previous economic policies were not helping them. With that, came this new so-called ‘Gospel of Populism’ and nationalism.” Now, Seib writes, “as Republicans nominate Mr. Trump for re-election at their truncated convention this week, there is simply no way to put Trumpism back into the bottle.” In terms of what’s next, Seib writes that “a new and younger breed of conservatives has set out to adapt their gospel so that it fits in the age of Trump.” For example, “Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is pushing for what he calls a ‘common-good capitalism,’ in which government policies promote not just economic growth but also provide help for families, workers and communities. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a likely presidential aspirant, is calling for leaving the World Trade Organization and managing capital markets to control the inflow of foreign money into the U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone Black Republican senator, has ushered into law a plan to use government incentives to lure investment dollars into underserved communities. Yuval Levin, a former George W. Bush White House aide, publishes a new-wave conservative journal and advocates for government programs specifically crafted to help young parents. Oren Cass, a young conservative intellectual, recently launched a new think tank, American Compass, from which he advocates an ‘industrial policy’ that gives specific government help to manufacturing firms—a concept long heretical in free-market circles. Former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley—another likely future White House hopeful—has her own think tank promoting a more conventional, Republican interventionist version of foreign policy. Meanwhile, the U.S.-educated Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony is beating the drum for a Trumpian embrace of a nationalist foreign policy.” In conclusion, “From many of these new-wave Republicans, the message is this: Conservatives faltered over time by becoming too enamored of their own ideology, too committed to globalization and free trade, and too indifferent to their effects on average working Americans. Looking past the Trump era, these conservatives argue, their movement needs to climb down from the ivory tower of hands-off economic theory and create a more practical conservatism that somehow embraces populism and nationalism, while seeking to retain core elements of free-market economics and Reagan’s ‘peace through strength’ brand of internationalism.”

On the Left: In an equally lengthy piece in the New York Times, David Brooks asks, “Where Do Republicans Go From Here?” Brooks says, “My guess is that if Trump gets crushed in the election, millions of Republicans will decide they never liked that loser and jerk anyway. He’ll get relegated to whatever bargain basement they are using to hold Sarah Palin. But something will remain: Trumpism.” Similar to Seib’s analysis, Brooks says, “The basic Trump worldview — on immigration, trade, foreign policy, etc. — will shape the G.O.P. for decades, the way the basic Reagan worldview did for decades. A thousand smarter conservatives will be building a new party after 2020, but one that builds from the framework Trump established.” Brooks believes that “Trumpism will survive Trump because the history of the modern Republican Party is the history of paradigm shifts.” For example, “If you came of age with conservative values and around Republican politics in the 1980s and 1990s, you lived within a certain Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher paradigm. It was about limiting government, spreading democracy abroad, building dynamic free markets at home and cultivating people with vigorous virtues — people who are energetic, upright, entrepreneurial, independent-minded, loyal to friends and strong against foes.” Brooks says that if we fast forward to 2016, “Steve Bannon’s leap finally did what none of us could do. Donald Trump and Bannon took a low-rent strand of conservatism — class-based ethnic nationalism — that had always been locked away in the basement of the American right, and overturned the Reagan paradigm. Bannon and Trump got the emotions right. They understood that Republican voters were no longer motivated by a sense of hope and opportunity; they were motivated by a sense of menace, resentment and fear. At base, many Republicans felt they were being purged from their own country — by the educated elite, by multiculturalism, by militant secularism.” Brooks argues that “by defeating the Reagan paradigm, Trump and Bannon gave permission to a lot of Republican politicians to make their own leaps.” Similar to Seib, Brooks points to a “small group of Republican senators in their 40s, including Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse.” Although, “Each has a different vision of where the country should go, they start with certain common Trumpian premises,” which are the beliefs that “Everything is not OK, economic libertarianism is not the answer, the working class is the heart of the Republican Party, China changes everything, and the managerial class betrays America.” In conclusion, Brooks says that “over the long term, some version of Working-Class Republicanism will redefine the G.O.P.” Secondly, “To have any shot of surviving as a major party, the G.O.P. has to build a cross-racial alliance among working-class whites, working-class Hispanics and some working-class Blacks.” Brooks says, “Rubio, Hawley, Sasse and Cotton are inching toward a G.O.P. future. What are the odds they’ll succeed? They’ve got to be way under 50-50.”

Flag This: The emphasis in both articles is on the new crop of conservatives that will act as the torchbearers for Trumpism after he’s no longer in office. These are Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse as Brooks notes and also Tim Scott, Oren Cass, and Nikki Haley as Seib points out. One personality they both missed, however, is Dan Crenshaw, a former United States Navy SEAL officer serving in the United States House of Representatives for Texas’s 2nd congressional district. Crenshaw is young (36-years-old) and politically inexperienced, yet both of these qualities may actually be what the GOP needs. Someone who can bridge the gap between an aging base and the need for younger voters. Someone who represents a diverse district that foreshadows the demographic makeup of the United States in two decades from now. Texas’s 2nd congressional district is 50% white, 31% Hispanic, 13% Black, and 7% Asian. If you follow Crenshaw’s social media channels, something he feels much more comfortable with than the older aforementioned Republicans, his posts, videos, and overall views are absolutely shaped by Trumpism, but it’s milder and more articulate—two qualities that Trump does not incorporate and something left-leaning outlets, commentators, and voters chide him for. Crenshaw is scheduled to speak at the RNC tomorrow night so you be the judge. Watch and listen to what he says and let us know what you think. And for what it’s worth, we don’t just follow Crenshaw and conservatives online and via their social media channels. We also follow personalities like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who represents New York’s 14th District and who is being hailed as one of the Democratic party’s rising stars. Again, we offer third-party, side-by-side analysis to help our readers peruse multiple perspectives. We think that both Crenshaw and Cortez will shape the ideology of their respective parties over the coming years.