The Republican Party has Conformed to the Image of Trump and his Outspoken Nationalism
Regardless of how the midterm elections play out, one thing is certain: President Donald Trump has won the war of ideas both within the Republican Party and among its electorate.
With the departure of moderate Republicans and the consolidation in Congress of younger, more fervent Trump supporters, the party’s acclimatization to Trump has molted into adherence to his policies and the abandoning of traditional conservative principles such as free trade.
This reconciliation between party and president has manifested itself along several policy lines: the recognition that opposing Trump carries significant political costs with Republican voters, the alliance between house and Senate to push through fiscal reform, and the anchoring of the Supreme Court to the right with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump’s policy agenda has seduced and widened his base: business leaders are satisfied by a booming economy, the evangelical vote by two conservative appointees to the Supreme Court, conservative foreign policy elites by the exit from the Iran nuclear deal and the moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and even conservative intellectuals have been swayed by the Kavanaugh hearings.
By reviving the culture wars of the 1990s and exploiting political tribalism, Trumpism threatens the spirit of compromise espoused by the founding fathers of the United-States. With Congress and the party system paralyzed by polarization, the nation’s courts increasingly come to make major decisions on immigration, electoral rules, and health reform, a reality which, given Trump’s judicial appointments, ensures a bright future for his politics.
Polarization has also galvanized voters, who are expected to turn out on November 6 in numbers exceeding the traditional 4 percent. Trump’s latest posturing on immigration resonates with his base and may play in the favor of Republican senatorial candidates in red-states but may backfire in tighter races for the House in undecided and more diverse states. Either way, the results of the midterms are sure to be cause for soul-searching among those who defend what it means to be “Republican” in the 21st century.