“Perhaps the most moderate candidate in the GOP field as of this moment is former President Donald Trump,” wrote Lowry, who contrasted the current field with 2016 – when the most moderate Republican was Ohio Governor John Kasich, “who lost everywhere except his home state.”
Lowry has a point. Trump has some bridge-building promises. “If you want a Republican who won’t cut spending or start foreign wars, [Trump] is still your man.”
Trump relative to his opponents
Curiously, Trump seems to be attacking his most prominent 2024 rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, from the left, rather than the right. Trump is “hitting the Florida governor hard for his past support for reining in Social Security and Medicare,” Lowry wrote. Trump’s “super Pac’s ad on this theme is functionally indistinguishable from the countless spots Democrats have run over the years attacking Republicans for even looking at entitlements crosswise.”
Trump has also been critical of DeSantis’s “culture-war clash” with Disney, calling the conflict “so unnecessary” and “a political stunt.” And weirdly enough, Trump has stayed out of the fray with respect to Bud Light.
Lowry does acknowledge that pinning Trump down ideologically can be complicated, especially given that “the substantive definition of the right is also up for grabs.”
“What is the more right-wing position?” Lowry asks. “Trump saying that he’ll end the Ukraine war in a day through his personal diplomacy…or a hawk saying that he’ll continue to arm Ukraine to the hilt? It depends who you ask.”
Lowry makes one point that I especially appreciate: I’ve been promoting a similar sentiment for a few years. “The alleged radicalism of Donald Trump,” Lowry wrote, “has mostly to do with his personal conduct, his outrageous statements, his conspiracy theories and his contempt for norms and rules.”
Indeed. When it comes down to what Trump actually does in substantive terms, he’s not all that distinct from other mainstream politicians. Frankly, I’m more concerned with guys like DeSantis, Pence, or Cruz than Donald Trump. But expressing such a thing in liberal circles – where Donald Trump is the de facto public enemy number one – would get me ex-communicated. Lowry understands, though, noting that while Trump’s ill conduct should not be dismissed lightly – they are not ideological.
“In theory, it’d be possible to be perfectly polite and support a border wall (in fact, this describes most Republicans), or be in favor of open borders and be just as fond as Trump is of coming up with insulting nicknames for rivals,” Lowry wrote.
And that’s the thing. People have gotten so caught up in Trump’s conduct that it clouds their judgment. How one professes to feel about Trump has become something of a moral litmus test. Conservative zealots like Liz Cheney are applauded (by the left) as heroes for standing up to Trump. But Liz Cheney is very conservative, standing in direct opposition to most things Democrats claim to care about. Ditto Mike Pence, a hardcore conservative who has infused his politics with religion, and who has been applauded for criticizing his former boss. Meanwhile, less conservative figures who fail to denounce Trump, are derided.
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.