“Are you, the GOP, better off today than you were seven-plus years ago?”
Since it’s election time and politicians from both parties are campaigning on platforms of improving voters’ lives, it’s fitting to ask whether the Republican Party itself is better off now than it was before Donald J. Trump rode down the Trump Tower escalator with wife Melania by his side and proceeded to change the world one truthful assault and insult (to the establishment) at a time.
Most conservatives and Republicans would reply with an emphatic “Yes!” to the above query and the discussion would then switch to the ways Trump made a difference since he burst on the scene. They’re too many benefits to count, or at least too numerous to lay out in a reasonable length opinion column. Books have been written on the subject and no doubt dozens, if not hundreds (or thousands?) more will follow in the years and decades to come.
What is indisputable on all sides is the notion that the Republican Party of 2022 looks, sounds and feels different/better than the old one did under the guidance of presidents George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush. We can also lump GOP presidential nominees Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney into this group as well as a good many of the party’s congressional leaders and past presidential candidates.
The Republican Party has changed alright, and by the looks of it, will never go back to its old default position of permitting the media to trample all over its leaders and beliefs. The GOP also (hopefully) won’t return to its previous non-stop parade of sellouts and capitulations. Current senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has done his best to maintain the half-hearted party attitudes, but Donald Trump – and his growing band of MAGA brand promoters – is working to fix that problem, perhaps as soon as next January.
What else has changed? Six things, apparently. In a piece titled “Six ways Trump has changed the GOP”, Max Greenwood wrote at The Hill:
“Former President Donald Trump has dramatically reshaped the Republican Party in his own image, leaving marks that have outlived his presidency — and could potentially outlive him.
“It’s not unusual for a president, current or former, to hold sway over his party and its voters. But Trump’s impact on the GOP stands out for its breadth; Trump has influenced the party and its members on everything from policy to rhetorical style, as Republican officials and candidates look to recreate the movement that helped propel Trump to the White House six years ago.
“Here are [six] ways Trump has significantly changed the GOP: [He’s turned it more against mainstream media; He’s made attacking opponents a signature; He’s sparked opposition to institutions; He’s fueled skepticism in the country’s elections; He’s made fealty to him a necessity for party survival; He altered the GOP’s view of the world].”
At the outset I’ll point out that making “lists” of ways that Trump did this or that is a terrific means for lazy reporters with writer’s block to fulfill his or her daily or weekly allotment of writings and still get a lot of people to click the links. Almost every time I see this type of column, the premises are usually highly disputable and, again, basically designed to paint Trump as either a buffoonish amateur or unflinching dictator.
As I’ve argued many times, Trump’s name by itself turns heads. Both fans and enemies alike love reading about the former president, and it’s that kind of instinctive attraction that’s allowed him to remain part of the conversation long after he departed Washington. Former presidents usually go into “retirement” and seek a golden years’ respite from the spotlight. Not Trump. Anyone who thought he would follow the example of his predecessors surely hasn’t studied the political or entertainment aspects of his career.
With that being said, I’ll add my own commentary to Greenwood’s “Six ways Trump has changed the GOP” propositions: 1. He’s turned it [the party] more against mainstream media
Is this really true? For as long as I can remember Republicans have railed against unfair media coverage, but it took a man like Trump to actually call the fourth estate out in direct terminology on their bias. Past surveys revealed that nine-out-of-ten media members consider themselves (or have voted for) liberal Democrats, and their personal slant shows up in their reporting.
Trump refused to play along with the manipulation games, instantly labelling anything he considered blatantly untrue as “fake news”. And he’d say it to the speaker’s face, too. Trump had little patience for the schmoozing and subtle manipulation of facts to support a liberal narrative – like “the Trump campaign colluded with Vladimir Putin to tip the 2016 election” and often turned interviews with hostile journalists into a verbal combat sport.
This “change” was more than welcome. Rather than watching the media relentlessly pecking at him as though he were poor, defenseless George W. Bush, Trump fought back. And won, at least with the people who paid attention to the particulars.
2. He’s made attacking opponents a signature
Even before Donald Trump arrived in 2015 to kick the GOP “up a notch”, a new breed of conservative fighter was emerging in Republican ranks.
Radio legend Rush Limbaugh helped bring about the GOP’s House majority in 1994 by highlighting the work of Newt Gingrich, who certainly was no stranger to attacking opponents. Gingrich and his core group of House conservatives, including Dick Armey, formulated the “Contract with America”, a set of ten ideas that the authors deemed “majority issues”.
While it may be true that Republicans didn’t attack each other as much in those days as Trump laid into his opponents during the 2016 campaign – and ever since – I wouldn’t say condemning each other is a GOP “signature” now. The Liz Cheneys and Adam Kinzingers of the world deserve every bit of negative energy they’ve received, not because they disagreed with Trump on policy, but because they made it personal. And petty. Sad.
Today’s Republican Party is much better off than before Trump because overall, they’re more unified and less content with having their policy positions smeared by Democrats and the media as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc., or to be called “semi-fascists” by jerks like Joe Biden just because they aren’t onboard with the liberal transgender fixation.
3. He’s sparked opposition to institutions
Like the previous item, Trump didn’t necessarily change Republicans’ “opposition” to institutions as much as he brought their suspicions to the forefront.
Americans don't love the U.S. government nearly as much as the media insists that they do. Americans love the Constitution and American traditions, not institutions, especially when said foundations have been corrupted. Some institutions within the government, like the military and the FBI, used to enjoy stellar reputations for effectiveness and nose-to-the-grindstone impartiality, but both (and many, many, others) have been despoiled by careerists with attitudes that they’re bigger and more important than the law and citizens’ rights.
Americans don’t send their sons and daughters into the military to be reprogrammed into “woke” robots spouting newly reformulated jargon, and the FBI has been wholly taken over by the Merrick Garland Department of in-Justice to the point where the drive to catch real criminals has been supplanted by elites pursuing political vendettas. Did Trump steer people away from the institutions, or did the institutions themselves change from within? You decide.
4. He’s fueled skepticism in the country’s elections
Really? Donald Trump alone changed the GOP into the party home of election deniers?
The irreplaceable Victor Davis Hanson wrote a column last week highlighting all the times Democrats denied or rejected the results of past elections. From the incredibly close 2000 presidential election to the non-disputed (by sane people, that is) Trump victory in 2016, many, many Democrats have gone on record indicating that a particular result was illegitimate and they wouldn’t abide by it.
Trump was just the first prominent official to make a public stink about election fraud and integrity at a very high level. Besides, Trump wasn’t the only one planting doubt into the minds of conservative voters regarding the electoral system. Such wariness was already there. Democrats have often refused basic integrity measures such as paper ballots, same-day voting and Voter ID. All of these suspicions pre-dated Trump. Democrats seem to think voter rolls don’t ever need to be scrubbed and illegal aliens should be given the franchise, too.
Democrats’ push for amnesty and citizenship for illegal aliens is about voting, period. The deeply flawed current electoral system invites more skepticism, not less. Until there are unquestionable accountability measures put in place, the reservations will remain.
5. He’s made fealty to him a necessity for party survival
This is another media created myth that isn’t backed up by facts. Journalists and liberal talk show hosts hold up Liz Cheney as the poster child for an unfortunate office holder whose electoral viability was destroyed by Donald Trump, but it was her own doing that put Liz on the primary chopping block in her home state (Wyoming).
Cheney made the mistake of siding with the enemy (Democrats) in voting to impeach Trump for something that he didn’t do – incite an armed “insurrection” against the government. Lots of people were and still are ambivalent about the former president, but this doesn’t mean they believe he’s a saboteur or a traitor. Far from it. Trump spoke eloquently about America and went out of his way to help disadvantaged people.
Liz Cheney crossed the line, as do any other Republicans who make it personal about Trump and his agenda. It's okay to disagree with Trump on policy, but don't attack him or his voters. Lindsey Graham is a good example of someone who publicly disagrees with Trump on some issues (such as Ukraine and Russia) but still remains in the man’s good graces. There are others, too.
Trump’s been burned far too many times from within the GOP. Demanding a little loyalty isn’t too much to ask in return for peace within the party.
6. He altered the GOP’s view of the world
Hear! Hear! It’s about time! For far too long Republicans were automatically associated with endless “stupid wars” and boundless military adventurism that was the product of neoconservative ideology and strongarmed political tactics. Trump put an end to it, as well as shamelessly promoting the notion that the American government should represent the interests of Americans first before they consider citizens and governments of other nations.
What’s wrong with that? We aren’t citizens of the world and conservatives value borders, sovereignty and their own God-given constitutional rights. Who cares what’s going on halfway around the world in terms of energy policy or trade philosophy?
Trump brought a new attitude to the GOP, and the fact that most current party members back him up on it is a good thing, not something to criticize.
Donald Trump didn’t change the Republican Party as much as he improved it. All Republicans ever needed was a leader like Trump (or Reagan before him) who knew how to sell the party’s ideas while simultaneously branding the Democrats as socialists, corporatists, globalists and “woke” climate hypocrites whose sole mission was to transform the once great nation into an unrecognizable dystopia. Think about that the next time the media argues that Trump has only hurt the GOP.
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