Has Trump changed the Presidency?

William Howell discusses this question

Case study President Trump 

And now a new debate- What impact has Trump had on the Republican Party?

In 2016 Donald J Trump became the Republican candidate for the presidency Was Trump leading an ideological battle within the Republican Party? Trump had been a supporter of the Clintons and a New York Democrat and in the campaign, Trump seemed an almost post-ideological candidate in many ways. He was not a conservative in the mould of Senator Ted Cruz or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He did not call for  limited, instead he promised investment in infrastructure- such as a wall between the |USA and Mexico. He actually opposed key Republican ideals such as  free trade, Wall Street financiers and corporate executives who moved jobs abroad. He even wanted to protect entitlement programmes from budget cuts. In his last days in office he vetoed defence spending - which was overridden with Republican votes and called for $2000 handouts in the Covid relief bill- supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans.  

But then neither was Trump a moderate or liberal Republican in the mould of Mitt Romney or John McCain, the party’s two previous presidential nominees. He promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court and did so-he courted leading evangelical leaders and constantly extolled his admiration for President Ronald Reagan.  In the 2020 campaign he promised to oppose socialism, and defend America form crime and anarchy. Trump’s attraction to those who supported him had more to do with what he was not — a politician — f Trump’s brand of ‘America First’ economic nationalism came to dominate the agenda and take over the republican party, so much so that leading Republican feared to tell him he had lost the election. Trump is the first post modern president.

Does the Trump presidency mean that persuasion and compromise are things of the past? As George C. Edwards (2009) has suggested, might presidents in the context of polarised politics conclude that they can no longer govern by adopting an inclusive approach to policy making, that there is little potential for persuasion, and the only way to govern is on the basis of a ‘50% plus 1’ majority?

Rather than seeking compromise with their opponents by bringing them into an inclusive coalition and supporting legislation broadly acceptable to the electorate, they sought, as Edwards put it, ‘to defeat the opposition, creating winners and losers in a zero-sum game’. If so, then presidential elections will be no more than an effort to mobilise one’s own party base rather than convince undecided and swing voters of the merits of one’s vision for the country. In the 2020 election Trump appealed to his base with little attempt to reach out to those who did not vote for him in 2016 and he increased his vote by 6 million. he also succeed in mobilising his opponents. Trump hay be the first presidential candidate who campaigned for and against himself.

But is Trump a one off or has something changed?

Mr Trump used the presidency as a perpetual campaign, filing with the Federal Election Commission for the 2020 election on the day of his inauguration, January 20, 2017.  “He’s dynamited the institution of the presidency,” said Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian at Rice University. “He doesn’t see himself as being part of a long litany of presidents who will hand a baton to a successor. Instead, he uses the presidency as an extension of his own personality.”

Is this a one-president aberration? Or has the White House forever changed? Whether the trends will outlast  Trump’s presidency is a question that won’t be answered until there is a new occupant in the Oval Office, but Brinkley predicts “no future president will model themselves on him.”

There was a time, many accelerated news cycles ago, when there was speculation, stoked by the candidate himself, that Trump would abandon the bluster of his campaign and become “more presidential” once he took office.

No one says that anymore.

Trump himself believes his unpredictability is what holds Americans’ attention and fuels his success.

“I have these stupid teleprompters. You don’t mind that I haven’t used them all night, do you?” Trump asked the crowd at a June rally in South Carolina. “Every once in a while I look at it, I mean, it’s so boring, we don’t want it. America’s back, bigger, and better, and stronger than ever.”

Indeed, Trump brought to the White House the same fact-challenged, convention-defying style that got him elected. From his first days in office, Trump pushed falsehoods about the size of the inaugural crowd and unfounded allegations about millions of illegal voters. He has not let up since.

Is Trump's legacy his impact on the Republican Party?

Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral success has, among other things, been attributed to “… intensified political partisanship in the presence of well‐institutionalized racially coded campaign strategies and rhetoric…” (Bobo, 2017, S85). Does this explain his 2020 successes?

How did Trump garner over 70 million votes while overseeing the highest unemployment rate in 80 years (Amadeo, 2020) and the worst epidemic in 100 years (Betz, 2020)? Hamblin (2020) notes that one exit poll showed coronavirus “was the most important issue guiding more than 40 percent of voters. But… 80 percent of Republican voters said they believe that

the virus is at least‘ some what under control’ in the same week that cases reached record numbers” . Here is a critical issue for voters, a government failing to address it, and 80 percent of the members of a major political party supporting what appears to be failed efforts.

Are they all stupid? Something else must be going on here. As Hamblin(2020) opined,“Much of what he [Trump] said and did as president was thinly veiled white supremacy, misogyny, race-baiting, and class warfare” .

This is not to say all voters selected Trump for reasons relating to race. Actually, non- college-educated minority voters increased support for Trump from 20 to 25 percent driven by a strong anti-socialist message to the Cuban community (Zhang & Burn-Murdoch, 2020).

Trump legitimately earned increased support among upper income voters (Zhang & Burn- Murdoch, 2020) – likely due to his tax policies

Potempkin Stupidity

Jerry Sheppard

Jesse Young