It was a conservative movement that fueled Donald Trump’s rise. It is a right-wing, front-sister-like organization that reaches far outside its progressive base and serves a partisan benefit to the Republican Party.
The Republican Party has always been a party of intolerance, more of a restrictionist, anti-immigrant hard-nosed conservative perspective than it is of the left. However, a Donald Trump ascendancy to the White House and ascendency in the GOP in office — despite the economic crisis, the diminished federal budget and federal deficits — has threatened to reverse that built-in pattern of authoritarianism.
The first stage of Trump’s ascendance into the White House was the campaigns of various right-wing groups and personalities, including the individuals who became campaigns finance chairmen and then Governors John Kasich, George W. Bush and John Hickenlooper. Beyond being part of the groups that rallied around the Republican candidate, these groups played an important role in deciding who would be in the White House.
The people who have figured out how to position themselves inside the White House alongside Trump, including Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., are primarily right-wing — and certainly not a Republican with the votes to elect a Democrat.
The winning strategy by the Republican Party against the Democrats — for example, to attract moderate Democrats to vote for Trump — ultimately had to include Democratic supporters and become a conspiracy theory, ignoring other potential conservative swing voters and the combination of them with normal, left-leaning Republican voters, who supported the Republican candidate.
The Right Wing is well aware of the current Democratic popularity among its base. Richard Painter, an attorney with the presidential ethics panel, used the phrase “big tent” in an interview after Trump won the presidential election, because he thought that many Republicans in his line of fire would be drawn to the President’s policies and that the Democratic party might alienate a lot of its public relations community.
Trump has been the top recipient of donations from the movement known as the Tea Party, which was formed in 2007, and the Cato Institute, which is affiliated with Cato. Both of these organizations are being run by Cato Chairman Mark Hasse.
And lest you think that Donald Trump has himself run away from the pack, he has been pushing forward further the Republican Party’s policies and policies that have angered (or earned the ire of) the largest minority bloc. On the progressive side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been pushing aggressively to pull a red flag on the impeachment of Trump.
“Black and Hispanic people have always been treated as objects,” she said during her national televised town hall, where she explained why she believes Trump’s accession has resulted in a “mob-like” police state in America. As recently as this week, the House Judiciary Committee co-chairman said that impeachment is “not even a real possibility” after he heard Michael Cohen confirm that he planned to hit Trump with “hundreds of millions” of dollars worth of lawsuits over communications that allegedly took place as he arranged hush money for his then-wife, Melania Trump.
Pelosi’s response to this committee chair has been to adopt the strategy of giving Trump supporters a rationale why congressional impeachment is not viable and not the “real” issue as Pelosi argued that it is in the 2000s, when he was in the Oval Office and the Trump administration is looking back and saying he was aware of the constitutionality of domestic spying laws during the election and received the “facts he was supposed to.”
The Democratic Party apparently is not going to convince a Democratic-led Congress to attempt to bring Trump down. By contrast, President Trump is demonstrating a willingness to enforce the Constitution and whatever he can to satisfy whatever base there is.
Or is it? The Republicans’ victory in the 2016 election, which only was won by a little over 1 percentage point, did not produce a conservative power base. Trump did so at a time when his and his Republican Party’s allies were determined to get in the way of Americans trying to keep a true conservative government in place, on issues like free trade, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, removing student debt and supporting a balanced budget, women’s rights and promoting personal responsibility. It was on this basis, Donald Trump won the presidency, even with the limited support that Democrats and other moderate Republicans had.
It will take a new Republican Congress and new leadership to prevent Trump from fulfilling these objectives and to undo the damage he is already wreaking on American society.
Michael O’Connell is an editorial writer with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremists and combats hate groups in its legal department, and a fiscal watchdog for those in power.