With growing crises at home and abroad, Trump is looking for scapegoats for his failing premiership: the Republican Party will be the biggest.
Trump’s love affair with the Republican Party is well and truly on the rocks. Republican senators recently blocked his healthcare plans and forced him to sign further sanctions against Russia.
Trump has parted ways with the last two Republican insiders who were at the centre of his White House machine; Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer. How long can Trump’s marriage of convenience with the Republican Party last for?
Trump has never been bound by ideology. He wants to provide new deal state intervention through tax cuts. The ends may be Bernie Sanders but the means are Von Hayek. The absence of doctrine in the Trump’ project is his greatest asset; he’s not bound by the weight of ideology.
In Trumpland, policy is made up on the hoof whatever is expedient in the moment and those who don’t define an event become its victims.
But what makes Trump hard to read is not necessarily his loyalty to a doctrine, like any Party there are numerous strands within the Republicans party, but his lack of loyalty to the brand.
Unlike the vast majority of politicians who buy into the brand of their political party to achieve their success, the only brand Trump buys into is himself.
Trump doesn’t believe he won the presidency because of his Party, but, rather in spite of it. The comments from established Republicans such as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan during the election campaign were not seen as helpful, but despite them he won for the Republican’s. As far as he is concerned they owe him and they should show him gratitude.
His detachment from Republican insiders is not to say he hasn’t condoned some of the most draconian, authoritarian and conservative policies in post war American history, he has. For example, opposed planned parenthood, privately signing a bill that allowed States to withhold federal money from organisations that provide abortion services. .
For Tump to jump ship from the Republicans would not be an agonising or tortured process as we have learned the only allegiance he has is to himself.
The likelihood of him running as an independent is becoming a greater reality by the day. His administration’s legislation seems unlikely to pass through Congress. His ratings are currently dire. If the mid terms go badly he will need someone to blame.
His Party is in the preferred position to be the scapegoat: they blocked the legislation, they have never accepted him, they are part of the swamp. You can see how Trump would run the narrative against them.
However, the realities of the American party system are stacked against this move. The last time an Independent won any electoral college votes was in 1912. Even then Teddy Roosevelt, who many have compared to Trump, garnered 27% of the vote yet only achieved 88 electoral college votes.
Ross Perot is the candidate who got closest in the modern era, winning 18% of the vote in 1992 yet won no Electoral College votes. The system is set up for the two party system.
But the more pressing question is what coalition would Trump draw on to forge this win? According to exit polls half of voters cast their ballot with reservation for their candidates, and only 4 out 10 voters for their favoured candidate.
Trump did gain 88% of Republicans, many being moderate Republicans who voted for him due to their allegiance to the party. Where Trump made a real impact was amongst men. Only 81% of white Democratic men voted for Clinton and only 80% of African-American men voted for Clinton, with Trump gaining 13% of their vote.
Lenin said there are no “morals in politics, only expedience”. We all know that Bannon is a Leninist but perhaps Trump is one after all.
His main political impulse seems to abandon his political allies, he did it with the Clintons, he did it with Reince Priebus, hopes to do it to John Sessions and the Republicans could be next.
Standing as an Independent, may give Trump the perfect excuse for what has been his appalling record in office so far: it was the Republicans fault.
With splits emerging in the Democratic party, 2020 could create a perfect storm for Trump to reinvent himself as the Independent President. In doing so he could break the party system which has held court over the American political landscape.
Sam Pallis is a journalist. He tweets here.
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