Posted: 11:10 pm Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
Given no chance last year by most political experts in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump this week finished what to some was a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, pushing ahead with a coalition of supporters that is far different than what the GOP has offered voters in past races for President.
For many years, conservatives proclaimed they were the “base” of the GOP – but the relatively easy victory of Trump for the Republican nomination shows that those conservatives may be loud – especially on talk radio – but that they aren’t really a majority of the party.
And that’s left conservatives feeling uncertain as Donald Trump takes over as the new boss of the Republican Party.
Trump’s big win in Indiana forced both Ted Cruz and John Kasich from the race, clearing the way for Trump to turn his attention to November, and a likely matchup with Hillary Clinton.
I would rather run against Crooked Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders and that will happen because the books are cooked against Bernie!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2016
In looking back on the rise of Trump – which shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who actually went out on the campaign trail in the last year – one thing that strikes me is how much Trump changed the conversation in the Republican race for President.
In every campaign for the White House that I have covered since 1988, social conservatives, more religious voters and evangelicals kept an intense focus for Republicans on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, religious liberty and more.
But those type of cultural issues played very little in Trump’s rise, a fascinating departure from the Republican politics of the last 35 years.
“He’s shown no capacity to understand the religious liberty issue,” complained Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who said Wednesday that he was not ready to jump on board with Trump, pointing at Trump’s attacks on Cruz.
On talk radio, there were some conservatives who clearly remain wary of Trump as the GOP standard bearer in 2016.
“We need to pull Donald Trump to the right,” said talk show host Mark Levin, who expressed concern that Trump will agree to raise the minimum wage, appoint liberals to the U.S. Supreme Court, and quickly move to the center now that he has the nomination wrapped up.
As for Trump, he has at times bluntly minimized the importance of conservatives to his bid for President.
“Folks, I’m a conservative, but at this point, who cares?” Trump said in a recent speech in California.
Trump: “Folks, I’m a conservative, but at this point, who cares? We got to straighten out the country,” https://t.co/nu6rFfwWD1
— Michael Tackett (@tackettdc) April 30, 2016
Trump has also pushed the envelope in other areas, paying lip service to issues that once were mandatory for conservatives and Tea Party voters.
For example, Trump has talked about balancing the budget, but has put forward no spending and tax plan that would get anywhere near that.
It was just six years ago that the Tea Party rose up against the Obama health law and demanded overall fiscal change, as voters sent a cadre of very conservative lawmakers to Washington.
But six years later, they will have a candidate for President who talks at one point about tax cuts, but then says he’s open to raising taxes on the rich – something that has been unacceptable to Republicans.
“Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?” was the recent question on NBC’s Today show.
“I do. Including myself,” Trump said.
Trump has also said he could support having hedge fund managers pay more in taxes, getting rid of what’s known as the carried interest loophole.
That idea has been dead in the water in Congress because of GOP opposition.
On Wednesday, Trump also said he was open to raising the minimum wage, something that GOP leaders have also opposed.
As for the Obama health law, while Trump routinely gets cheers when he vows to repeal that law, he has been on all sides of the health care debate, something that Cruz often zeroed in on, while trying to make the case that Trump was not a real conservative.
With the Congress not in session this week in Washington, most Republicans in Congress laid low as the news of Trump’s victory set in – but there were some who stood up and signaled their support.
2/3: I look forward to working with Mr. Trump at the top of the ticket and to maintaining a #GOP Senate.
— Richard Burr (@Burrforsenate) May 4, 2016
For Democrats, targets like Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) are going to get a lot of focus in coming months, as they hope Trump will bring down Republicans running for re-election in the U.S. House and Senate.
Just last week, a Democrat running for Senate in Arkansas put out a web video that highlighted quotes from Trump on TV and radio, trying to tie him to an incumbent GOP Senator.
On Wednesday, it was Hillary Clinton who used the words of Trump – and his rivals – to make the case against Trump as well.
"President Trump" is a dangerous proposition.
Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio agree.https://t.co/fUkISvgaXC
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 4, 2016
“I don’t think we can take a risk on a loose cannon,” Clinton said in a statement, as her campaign started to drop some of their rhetorical bombs on Trump.
There are some Republicans who agree with that – how many avoid Trump all the way through November is the big unknown.
Let’s put it this way – this is not your father’s Republican Party anymore.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.