Is Donald Trump a Real Republican? Are His Supporters?

An intelligent Republican columnist said this morning that ‪#‎DonaldTrump‬ is not *really* a Republican but instead a big-city Democrat who loves government. The reason for this comment was Trump’s remark during the GOP debates last night that the $4 trillion wasted in Iraq could have been used to rebuild roads and bridges at home–a remark almost identical to past remarks made by the current president. This columnist said a real Republican would not have said that. Instead he’d say $4 trillion should have gone back to taxpayers who’d use it in ways they saw fit.

I have heard this before from party regulars dismayed by Trump’s popularity, and I find it fascinating. Here’s what I mean.

Trump remains ahead of the Republican field by a mile. If it’s true that he isn’t *really* a Republican but instead a Democrat who loves government, what does that suggest about the Republican base that is supporting him? One possible answer is that this Republican base isn’t very Republican either, as “Republican” has come to mean over thirty years nearly total opposition to the role of government in the lives of Americans.

This suggests something else.

The GOP’s elites are a few dozen billionaires who have enjoyed relative control over the federal government, either the absence of it by way of tax breaks and deregulation, or presence of it by way of contracts, subsidies, and the like. These elites have said they fear Trump’s rise will poison the GOP’s future as a national party. Indeed, his appeal to the nativism of the white working class is a conundrum without an apparent solution. But what if there is another, more immediate concern among party elites: that this obnoxious, chest-thumping electorate threatens to usurp the power of Big Business over the government and force it to serve working-class interests.

You can say much about the white working class but you can’t say they are opposed to big government. That wasn’t always the case of course. Working class whites in the South opposed enforcement of school integration, and working class whites in the North opposed “forced busing” for the same end. But those days are dim memories compared to thirty years of stagnant wages, lost jobs, and bleak hopes for their children.

Many very smart people like Frank Rich have suggested the Republican Party is falling apart, that it’s headed for a crack up. Maybe so, but I can imagine only one scenario in which that could happen: when Republican elites pull out to form another party. The white working class is loud and mad with resentment but the elites have the money and the power. They want the government to serve their interests, and usually that means no government. Meanwhile, Trump calls for tariffs, raising taxes on the rich, closing the border to immigrants and Muslims — all of which require big government. So if Trump isn’t *really* a Republican, then neither is the electorate supporting his run for the Republican nomination.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is a Washington Monthly contributing writer.