The President of the United States is not only the leader of the country, but the leader of their party. They set the agenda that affects views and policy goals within the party. I think people are waiting to see what Trump puts at the forefront of that agenda once he gets into office.
Certainly, some of his views differ from the traditional party line, with regards to trade, and some foreign policy – he certainly has a different perspective on the world compared with George W. Bush, say. Trump has been a critic of the Iraq War – and, essentially, of neoconservatism, which was a hallmark of the Bush administration. Trump seems to be more of a paleo-conservative – not interested in intervening in the world in areas where others, in the past, would have. That’s going to be a very different approach.
Trump has said many times that he’s a deal-maker, he’s a negotiator. Whatever your views are on Donald Trump, one thing you can say is that he’s not a rigid partisan. We’ve had rigid partisanship now in Washington for many years. Gone are the eras of the dealmakers in the Senate – people like Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was notorious for cutting deals, both as Senate majority leader and as president. Even under Bill Clinton, there were a number of bipartisan efforts to address big issues, like the deficit. But Washington has become so Balkanised over the last ten years or so that it has been hard to cut a significant deal on anything. Look at Obamacare – passed without a single Republican vote. Trump is a deal-maker. He talks about how he sees things, and considers them opening bids – and then works towards a goal. I don’t think we yet know what his vision will be.
“Washington has become so Balkanised over the last ten years or so that it has been hard to cut a significant deal on anything. Trump is a deal-maker.”
He does espouse many traditional Republican viewpoints, on issues like being pro-life, having a strong national defence, opposing excessive government regulation, and I think he has signalled his commitment to those issues initially with some very strong appointments to cabinet positions. But there are some substantive differences on issues, such as trade – I don’t think there’s much appetite in Congress right now for a trade war with China. So there will be some stark differences there – but again, he makes deals, so who knows what he’ll come up with?
There was a lot of discussion before the election, when it was assumed that Trump would lose, about what that loss would do to the future of the party, and whether or not we’d be in the wilderness. But not only did Trump win the election, Republicans won pretty much across the board. We maintained our majorities in the Senate and the House, picked up governorships, and basically control all levers of power at state and federal level right now, so I don’t think people are thinking about doom and gloom for the party. We’re in control – it’s the Democrats who’ve been cast into the wilderness.
Is he going to change everyone’s mind? Of course not – there are always going to be different factions and wings of the party, but as leader, he’ll have more sway than anyone else.