Alvaro Huerta’s piece characterizing Trump as a “true Republican” is understandable but ultimately incorrect. While Trump certainly has a following within the GOP, he is not, by any real standard, a “true” Republican. The polls tell a very different, albeit complicated story —his place within the GOP is tenuous at best— and he is far from an actual conservative.
— Charlotte Observer (@theobserver) August 19, 2015
Huerta’s argument is quite simple: Trump engages in anti-immigration demonization; the GOP also engages in xenophobia; ergo, Trump is a true Republican. The problem is that this actually places Trump outside the Republican mainstream.
Poll after poll shows consistent GOP support for immigration reform that would allow a path to citizenship. This has been a continuing trend among Republican voters, showing a range of support from 56 to 64 percent. While this is lower than support for immigration reform among Democrats and independents, Trump’s opposition to immigration reform makes him a black sheep, not a true son, of Lincoln’s Grand Old Party.
This trend becomes even more stark when you measure it for base party activists or specifically for Tea Party Republicans. In fact polls isolated to Tea Partiers show a higher level of support than in the party overall. On the whole, Republican voters want a policy that is friendly to undocumented immigrants, is rooted in free markets and doesn’t rely on a larger, more expensive government to punish immigrants for simply accepting a job offer. It appears Mr. Trump does not.
The rest of Huerta’s position is that Republicans support policies that hurt Latinos, in particular when it comes to healthcare and taxes, and therefore Trump, with his obvious xenophobia, is clearly a true Republican. Except this ignores the fact that there is a very serious debate about healthcare and tax policy, with a lot of ideological diversity within the Latino communities. This point forgets that, within the healthcare policy world, there are a number of conservative reform proposals that could decrease prices and increase coverage (and choice) for Latino families. No doubt Huerta disagrees with these reforms, but that doesn’t mean that opposition to Obamacare inherently suggests a dislike of Latinos.
This is especially true when it comes to taxes. In the last 60 years, tax rates have gotten lower and less progressive, while at the same time Latino wages have gone up. In fact, support for lower tax rates is surprisingly high among younger Latinos, presumably even among Huerta’s own students.
Secondly, Trump’s place in the GOP is rocky to say the least. Since the Cold War, Republicans have been a coalition of national security conservatives, free-marketers (or pro-business types) and social conservatives. This means that in each presidential election, the Republican nominee is almost always a moderate choice, as someone has to win enough support from each wing of the party. As a result, the GOP usually picks pragmatic, center-right candidates, instead of fire-breathing outsiders. This is the party, after all, that chose Bob Dole over the paleoconservative Pat Buchanan in 1996, John McCain over the Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee in 2008, and Mitt Romney over the right-wing neo-creationist Rick Santorum in 2012.
As for Trump’s chances in 2016, eccentric billionaire demagogues don’t win a majority of GOP support. Just ask Ross Perot, the independent candidate in 1992 who managed to win 19 percent of vote but no electoral votes.
Thirdly, the polls don’t show unanimous support for Trump among Republicans. While they show him winning a plurality of Republicans, it also shows that a very clear majority of Republicans are backing someone else. The plethora of candidates currently in the field is what allows Trump to claim frontrunner status. In fact Trump’s unfavorable ratings among Republicans is one of the highest at 42 percent.
When we break down exactly who in the Republican coalition backs Trump, as Emily Ekins over at the Federalist did, we see an interesting picture. Trump’s support remains stagnant among very conservative Republicans, and his support drops among self-described Tea Partiers. The picture is actually quite bleak for Trump. Far from being a leading true Republican, Trump is the most disliked candidate of all, with three quarters of the GOP rooting for someone else. Furthermore, he is seriously hated by the party’s establishment.
Lastly, “The Donald” doesn’t really fit the category of a conservative either, which is why conservative publications and think tanks like the National Review and the Cato Institute have been excoriating him lately. Whether it’s his past support for abortion and higher taxes, his friendship with the Clintons, his donations for the Democratic Party or his use of invasive big government to rig the market in his favor, at this point Trump is more likely to win the Latino vote than convince conservatives he is really one of their own.
I’ll be honest. As a Republican, a pro-immigration advocate and as a Mexican American, Trump terrifies me. His crass nativism, near constant vulgarity and shallow buffoonery would be a disaster for immigrants, the GOP and the country as a whole. In fact, I’ll go on record and say that if he were to win the nomination, I would not vote for the Republican Party in 2016.
But when I look at the facts, I don’t worry all that much. His flip-flopping, crony capitalism, rude antics and nativist nonsense are liabilities in his quest to be the GOP’s nominee. He won’t win, and he’s not a true Republican.
The only affiliation Trump truly has is to himself.