Is Donald Trump a Conservative?

Analyzing Trump's Improbable Political Shift

Donald Trump
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Ignoring Donald Trump was fun while it lasted, but as he is now an announced candidate for President riding a sizable poll bump, denial about his existence is no longer an option. Propelled by tea party groups who were once so rigid ideologically that they would regularly reject solid conservative candidates, Trump has temporarily earned their backing based on his boisterous calls for building a wall on the border.

Perhaps he's just filling the gap that Ted Cruz's neutered presidential campaign has failed to fill. With Cruz taking a more measured approach in his presidential bid, it was only a matter of time before someone would take the come-at-me-bro approach. Enter Trump.

Donald Trump has been here before. In 2011, he flirted with running for President before ultimately deciding to re-up as a reality television star. He managed to top some polls after deciding to thrust birtherism into the campaign, giving Republicans who actually would run headaches they weren't looking for. This year, his cause is border control - an issue that has long been needed to address and is, honestly, an issue that resonates across party lines. That the Republican Party has not been more aggressive in this area of the immigration debate is a true crime. But Trump's position on the border is not why he is where he is.

He is where he is because he is loud.

He's obnoxious about his positions and, apparently, the squeakiest wheel gets the biggest poll bumps. He's open to verbally attacking just about anyone, mostly Republicans, and usually the good ones at that. He's suing just about everyone it seems, perhaps enough to personally pay off the nation's debt should he win them all.

He's been bolstered by tea party groups who are grasping on for relevance in the worst possible way. The Breitbart News website has put him in an inexplicably-flattering light. He's been invited to CPAC for several years in a row now. And because nearly everyone is running from him, he is suddenly the "anti-establishment candidate" opposed only by RINOs. With the most conservative elements of the party defending Trump, the question should actually be asked: is Donald Trump even a conservative?

Despite making his mark on the issue, Donald Trump is no different than any other candidate on illegal immigration. All of the major candidates support closing the border first before doing anything else. This is true for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Scott Walker. And like those candidates, Donald Trump is also for a path to legal status. Of the major candidates, only Jeb Bush appears to be holding on to comprehensive immigration reform as opposed to an incremental approach. There is effectively no difference between the candidates except that Trump has managed to alienate almost every Hispanic in the country just to have the same position as the "RINOs."

While Trump has made his mark by holding the same position on amnesty/border control as everyone (just much, much more loudly), where does Trump stand on everything else?

Naturally, Trump had a major ideological-transfusion in 2011 right before his initial flirtation with a presidential run. Up until then, Trump was decidedly in favor of abortion and proudly pro-choice. He once proposed a 14%+ tax on wealth to wipe out the debt. He called universal healthcare a "must have" in America, something that Obamacare supporters eventually hope to achieve. He was for gun control before he was against it. He called Missile Defense "inappropriate." Despite greasing the political wheels for decades he is suddenly against "crony capitalism."

While Donald Trump does have a 2016 website, it's missing an issues page. It does, however, featureparagraph after paragraph of all the things that have his name on it.

Other Notes:

- Trump was upset that his friend John Kerry "blew it" against George W.

Bush in 2004, calling Bush "the worst President in the history of the United States."

- Since 2011, Trump has donated almost exclusively to Republicans. Prior to that, he financially backed Hillary Clinton's 2008 primary campaign and mostly liberal Democrats, with a handful of liberal Republicans sprinkled in. He donated twice to Charlie Crist in late 2009 as Marco Rubio was starting to pick up steam in the Republican primary for the US Senate in Florida. He also backed Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey that cycle. Both moderate Republicans would later jump the GOP ship after losing to the Tea Party favored candidates. (All of this adds to the irony that it is the tea party now giving him life.) In 2004, he backed Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle over John Thune, who went on to pull off the major upset that year.

- Judging by statements and donations, Trump's preferred presidential picks appear to have been Bob Kerrey (D-NE) in 2000, but he did not run, John Kerry (2004), and Hillary Clinton (2008). His 2012 support of Mitt Romney mostly appears a product of his improbable "transformation" and personal disdain for President Obama.