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Donald Trump: Just a Boring Conservative or Crazy MAGA?

Donald Trump. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with supporters at an "An Address to Young Americans" event hosted by Students for Trump and Turning Point Action at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona.

Thomas B. Edsall has a new opinion piece out with The New York Times suggesting that Donald Trump, in an effort to “outflank” Ron DeSantis in the upcoming GOP primary, “goes only in one direction: hard right.”

I disagree.

I have written here about Donald Trump attacking DeSantis, and the broader GOP, on their willingness to cut entitlement programs – meaning, Trump has at times moved to the left to draw a distinction between himself and DeSantis.

Trump’s comments on education and gender

Anyways, in demonstrating Trump’s movement to the right of DeSantis, Edsall cited Trump’s education agenda.

“At the start of this year,” Edsall wrote, “Trump announced his education agenda, declaring that he would issue mandates to ‘keep men out of women’s sports,’ end teacher tenure and cute federal aid to any school system that teaches ‘critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children.'”

“As the saying goes,” Trump said, “personnel is policy and at the end of the day if we have pink-haired communists teaching our kids we have a major problem.”

Edsall also cites Trump’s “Plan to Protect Children from Left-Wing Gender Insanity,” which promises ‘to bring to a halt ‘gender-affirming care,’ to punish doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minors and to pass legislation declaring that ‘the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female and they are assigned at birth.'”

“No serious country should be telling its children that they were born with the wrong gender,” Donald Trump said. “Under my leadership, this madness will end.”

While Trump’s rhetoric on gender and education is certainly right-wing, I’m not sure it qualifies as further to the right than DeSantis’s own rhetoric and policy on gender and education.

Remember, DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ last year.

And last week, DeSantis’s Florida introduced a bill that would give “DeSantis more power over state schools, and allow the Republican politician to ban gender studies and critical race theory, along with diversity and inclusion initiatives,” according to Rolling Stone.  

DeSantis is very much to the right with respect to education and gender.

Determining who is more to the right here – DeSantis or Trump may be an exercise in hair-splitting.

And really, while Edsall frames Trump as being egregiously conservative on education and gender, Trump is echoing sentiments that have become very common within the GOP as part of the larger effort to counteract the left’s “wokeness.”

Trump’s behavior has been consistent

Edsall does make good points, albeit long-since established points, that Donald Trump has pushed a portion of the GOP away from traditional, mainstream values and concerns and into a place of conspiracy and resentment-mongering.

“The inclination to conspiracy and paranoia is the bond that links Trump to the far right,” historian Jeffrey C. Herf wrote to Edsall. “Trump without conspiracy theorizing is a nonentity” and Trump’s core voters “love him for expressing their resentments, and for pointing to tangible targets for their anger.”

Trump will absolutely continue to promote conspiracy theories and personal tales of victimhood as he campaigns for a third consecutive GOP nomination.

We know that. That’s what Trump does.

But Donald Trump also promotes sentiments and policies that are just baseline conservative.

It’s important for observers to differentiate between what is radical and what is mainstream, what is absurd and what is reasonable.

Otherwise, criticism of Donald Trump will be shrill, hyperbolic, and ultimately, less credible.

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken. 

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.