Trump Ruined the Conservative Brand
Or: how Trump's leftism has a long tail
“An Economist/YouGov poll this month found that 71 percent of Republicans under 45 favored more government spending to create jobs, even if it required higher taxes. Among Republicans over 45, the numbers were almost perfectly reversed: 74 percent favored prioritizing lower taxes. The split between older voters who came of age under Ronald Reagan and younger voters defined by Trump reflects two different lived experiences as to what conservatism means.”
There is no better way to display the ways that Donald Trump ruined the conservative brand more than this.
When Ronald Reagan was President, he campaigned on lowering taxes and reducing government spending. Yes, Ronald Reagan did raise taxes. But did not increase federal spending specifically for the purpose of job creation.
Donald Trump, however, did both of these things. He raised taxes on working people, primarily through tariffs. Then he continued to try to pump the economy up through stimulus money, the ever-present and ill-defined “Infrastructure Week” that never happened, and expanding a number of other government agencies and programs.
Donald Trump changed what conservatism meant. Because Donald Trump was himself a New York Liberal Democrat in policy, an alarming number of Republicans under 45 are now New York Liberal Democrats in policy.
Grover Norquist has, for decades, had a saying. It goes a little something like this:
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, on Thursday likened Republican lawmakers who vote for tax increases to "rats" whose actions ruin the GOP brand.
Speaking to a friendly crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Norquist touted the significance of his no-tax pledge, which a majority of Republicans in the House have signed.
He argued the pledge had helped to brand "the modern Republican Party as the party that would not raise your taxes."
And to illustrate how important branding can be for a party, Norquist suggested that Republicans who are open to tax increases poison the GOP brand in much the same way a rat head found in a bottle of Coca-Cola would poison the Coke brand.
"Republican elected officials who vote for tax increases are rat heads in a Coke bottle," Norquist said, to loud cheers and applause from the crowd.
He went on to argue that while opposing tax increases is "step one" to limiting government, step two is to "stop spending so much of other peoples' money." He says the Tea Party has worked to make lower taxes and spending a mainstream focus of the Republican Party as a whole.
That entire story comes from another dimension now almost. A time where CPAC represented conservatism and not Trumpism, and when the Tea Party was for reducing taxes and spending instead of increasing them. But I digress.
The thing that I want to focus on is the fact that "Republican elected officials who vote for tax increases are rat heads in a Coke bottle.” The idea is that when a person finds a rodent in a bottle of Coke, that person is less likely to buy a bottle of Coke in the future. Similarly, when a Republican votes for tax increases and increased spending, it makes voter less likely to vote for Republicans in the future.
In this instance, Donald Trump was the rat head in the Coke bottle. Allowing him into the conservative movement did enormous electoral damage to the conservative brand, as the last two elections have shown. And now, Trump’s leftism has infected the Republican rank and file.
Now, this may fly in some states. In a lot of states, obsequiousness to Trump is enough to get through a primary and a general election. There’s no reason anybody else would vote for people like Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene. But it’s not enough in some states, even in the Republican Party. For example, here in Maryland, Trump-worshipping leftists like Pat McDonough and Kirby Delauter were handily skunked in their primary election campaigns. There are many other Republican Parties across the country who will rejected Trump-style leftism and actually support conservatives instead.
But no matter how good those conservatives are, their job is now twice as hard because Trump has been allowed to brand conservative as pro-tax, pro-spending, isolationist, and unwilling to accept the results of fair election. It makes the job of any conservative twice as hard before they even open their mouth, regardless of whether or not they ever supported Trump. And that’s without even addressing the awfulness of the Trump-inspired coup d’etat attempt.
So yes, Trump was the rat head in the Coke bottle of conservatism. Trump single-handedly ruined the conservative brand, much in the same way I told everybody he always would. And now, everybody who signed up for this is going to suffer the electoral consequences for years to come.
Hopefully, some sanity can be restored in the GOP sooner rather than later. And as always…