Is Trump A Republican? Yes, But The Question Deserves Deeper Examination

By on September 8, 2017

Here’s a weird question to ask: Is President Donald Trump a Republican anymore? Or, was he ever?

It sounds strange to ask, and it has an obvious answer. But before I tell you that answer, hear me out:

Trump this week decided to reach across the aisle and pass a debt ceiling deal with Democratic lawmakers Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi — the minority leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively. He did this over objections of Republican leaders, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

This one small move rattled the cages of many in the GOP. And it makes many wonder whether they can trust the president in the future, or whether he’s someone who doesn’t necessarily adhere to all of their values.

The question of which party Trump belongs to, however, didn’t strike me as one to ask until I read a tweet this morning from Politico’s John Bresnahan, who was responding to a GOP lawmaker’s concerns that the administration wouldn’t answer a direct question about the debt ceiling.

Now, don’t get me wrong: President Trump is NOT a Democrat. His clear opposition to most issues that Democrats support — expanded healthcare for Americans, immigration policy that treats immigrants with a degree of humanity, and so on — is evidence enough that he will never put the “D” behind his name.

But politics doesn’t work that way, either. It isn’t always a dichotomic decision — in other words, just because an individual isn’t a Democrat doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a Republican, and vice versa. And the idea that Trump might not be a Republican is something that the “never Trump” crowd was peddling while he was running for president starting in 2015.

I have made the argument in the past that Trump is a disjunctive president. And part of what that entails is that he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with his party. This creates fissures between him and other party leaders, and questions arise about who is truly in charge, leading to factions preventing any work from getting done (even with majorities in Congress).

Disjunctive presidents also indicate that a change is coming — a repudiator president that challenges the “old guard,” in this case, a candidate that will be the antithesis to conservative Reaganism.

This leads me to a simple conclusion: yes, Trump is a Republican. He may not be the type of Republican that “old guard” Republicans want him to be, but he is a member of the GOP nonetheless.

A second conclusion I can draw, however, is that, barring any huge changes in the state of politics today (impeachment, resignation, etc.), the next president will not be a Republican. Trump’s disjunctiveness is just too hard for the GOP to overcome. And it will allow a repudiator candidate, one with a political agenda that the nation can largely get behind, to take his place in 2020.