by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[W]e do not know the exact relation between Trump’s nationalism and populism and the roughly 78,000 votes in three states that gave him an Electoral College victory. But the unexpected shape of his upset suggests that the trademark Trump issues of immigration, trade, nonintervention, and retirement security played some role both in attracting support for him and depressing turnout for Hillary Clinton.
Yet the 16 months since the election have seen the gradual, fitful, and partial regularization of Trump into the GOP that predated and opposed him. Until recently, the president and congressional leadership were aligned: They seated a justice and lower-court judges, rolled back Obama-era regulations, failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, and passed a large tax cut. Trump’s foreign policy also became more conventionally Republican. … By the end of 2017, one would have thought the party would change Trump more than he would change it.
That hasn’t happened. Instead, both Trump and the GOP seem to be reverting to form: Trump has pressed for changes to legal immigration, visited prototypes for the border wall, called for the death penalty for opioid dealers, and imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum as well as against China, amid anxiety and dissent and resistance from congressmen of his own party. Trump’s instincts and impulsiveness have driven him to re-embrace the portfolio that delivered his electoral coalition at the very moment Republicans in Congress want nothing so much as to return to their districts, publicize the tax cut, and vainly attempt to divorce their campaigns from national politics. And so we are faced with the oddity that Trump’s approval rating is creeping upward even as Democrats press their midterm advantage.
Trump and the Republicans operate according to different hierarchies of values.