by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Much of Trump’s weakness with upscale, suburban Republicans can be traced to the hostility of the Bush family. They viewed Trump’s primary victory as a hostile takeover of the party they had long dominated — a Bush was on the national GOP ticket for president or vice president in every election between 1980 and 2008 save for one (1996). With his attacks on the Iraq War, his humiliation of Jeb Bush in the GOP primaries, and his characterization of George W. Bush’s presidency as “weak,” Trump clearly alienated the Bush base. …
… It’s clear that the gulf between the “Bushies” and the “Trumpsters” isn’t likely to be bridged anytime soon. That is a good thing. Any other Republican president-elect would have been under enormous pressure to bring in former Bush officials to staff cabinet agencies with safe, don’t-rock-the-boat appointees. “I call them Bush Barnacles,” top Trump strategist Steve Bannon told me earlier this year. Instead, Trump owes next than nothing to the Bushes and has selected only one of George W. Bush’s former cabinet officials to head a department: Elaine Chao at Transportation, who also was the most conservative member of the cabinet during George W. Bush’s two terms.
Instead, Trump has largely turned to an eclectic mix of top business executives (Rex Tillerson at State, Wilbur Ross at Commerce), former generals (James Mattis at Defense and John Kelly at Homeland Security) and bureaucracy busters (Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency and Jeff Sessions at Justice).
Trump will no doubt be careful to cement his support with the blue-collar voters who delivered him the election. In keeping with his promises to these supporters, he’ll probably aim to renegotiate trade deals without touching off trade wars, clear away barriers to job creation, and reassert American leadership overseas. For someone who needs to solidify his political standing for 2020, succeeding in those policies would represent the best possible political revenge against the Bushes and his many other critics.