Was Donald Trump a Democrat?

Why the Billionaire Real Estate Mogul Has Changed Political Parties

Donald Trump
Donald Trump holds a campaign event in Iowa in July 2015. Scott Olson/Getty Images News

It's true: Donald Trump was a Democrat.

Long before the ultrawealthy real-estate magnate entered the fray and ran for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination he belonged to the party of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson. And that led to some conservatives suspecting Trump of acting on behalf of the Democrats, and in particular, the Clintons, to sabotage the GOP.

The Saturday Night Live comedian Seth Myers once quipped: “Donald Trump often talks about running as a Republican, which is surprising.

 I just assumed he was running as a joke.”

Though many conservatives suspected Trump wasn't a real conservative for a long time before the 2016 campaign, he insisted he had the credentials to win over the Republican Party's right wing. 

“I am a conservative person. I am by nature a conservative person. I never looked at putting a label on myself, I wasn’t in politics," Trump said in 2015. "But if you look at my general attitudes in life I would certainly have the more conservative label put on me."

When Donald Trump Was a Democrat

It turns out you don't have to look far to find evidence that Trump wasn't always a conservative Republican. 

Trump was registered as a Democrat for more than eight years in the 2000s, according to New York City voter records made public during his campaign for president in 2016.

Trump owned up to his years with the other party and told CNN he identified with Democrats during that time because they were more adept at handling the economy.

Said Trump:

"It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, I mean it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats. ... But certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats, as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disasters under the Republicans."

Trump was a regiserted Democrat from August 2001 through September 2009.

Why Trump's Voting Record Matters in 2016

Trump's inconsistency when it comes to party affiliation - he's also been registered with the Independence Party and as an independent - was an issue in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Many in the large field of presidential hopefuls criticized his affiliation with the Democrats, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“He was a Democrat longer than he was a Republican. He's given more money to Democrats than he has to Republicans," Bush said. (Among the politicians Trump has given money to is former Secretary of State and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.)

It probably didn't help Trump's case among conservative voters that he's spoken very highly of some of Democrats who are typically vilified by conservatives including Harry Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton and even Nancy Pelosi.

Trump as a Stalking Horse

Of course, there was plenty of speculation during the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination that Trump was trying to sabotage the GOP candidates by saying outrageous things and making a mockery of the process in a bid to help Hillary Clinton win the election.

"Donald Trump is trolling the GOP," political reporter Jonathan Allen wrote.

Trump also threatened to run for president as an independent, a move many believed would siphon votes from the Republican nominee as other, similar candidates have done in the past.