Last night, businessman Donald Trump all-but-officially secured the Republican Party’s nomination for president, with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus tweeting “Donald Trump will be presumptive GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating Hillary Clinton.”
Trump soundly defeated Senator Ted Cruz in the Indiana Primary, ending the chances for his only serious remaining rival to overtake his delegate count. And, more importantly, the win in Indiana increases the chances Trump can secure the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in July.
It would be wrong to only see Trump’s victory as the triumph of a more adroit media strategy or the result of having greater personal charisma and star power than his opponents. While it is true being a reality TV star was likely better training for the current media environment than knowing Roberts Rules of Order and reciting manufactured sound bites, Trump’s message is just as troublesome for DC conservatives as his presentation of it.
Donald Trump continually rejected basic orthodoxies of the conservative movement. Trump bashed neoconservative foreign policy, calling the Iraq War a disaster, casting aside the conceits of humanitarian interventionism and declaring an America First paradigm. Even before his speech, neoconservatives began lining up against Trump and siding with Hillary Clinton.
On Wall Street and trade, Trump veered even further from RNC talking points. As president, Trump said he would close the carried-interest tax loophole for hedge fund managers and threatened that, if countries such as China did not stop manipulating their currency, he would try to impose tariffs on their goods. Yes, the presumptive Republican nominee ran on increasing taxes on Wall Street and rolling back free trade.
It is hard to exaggerate how out of step those policies are with DC conservative ideology, and yet, Trump has won. That victory has finally led to a modicum of self-awareness from conservative pundits, with Ross Douthat writing that Trump’s victory represents the defeat of “True Conservatism.” In other words, Republican voters are not as enthralled by conservative ideology as both those in DC and elsewhere in the GOP establishment thought and hoped.
Instead, it looks as though Republican voters (and beyond) do not see capitalism as a suicide pact or endow imperialist expansion abroad with sacred purpose. The neocons and market fundamentalists look to be seriously out of favor with the rank-and-file of the party—not only out voted, but intellectually impotent in their ability to persuade.
Donald Trump is not a fascist, but he is not an orthodox conservative either. And yet, the party that houses the conservative movement in our de facto political duopoly is giving Trump the nomination not just for the highest office in the land, but leader of the party.
Regardless of the outcome in November, the GOP will never be the same.