In some ways, all the progressive angst over Donald Trump’s rise and further rise is misplaced.
Because aside from his completely unworkable plan to deport 11 million people, then welcome back the "good" ones, he’s by far the least conservative of the 17 GOP options.
On Social Security, just for starters, Trump is such an outlier that the liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote a column headlined "In GOP war on Social Security, only Trump gets it." Instead of arguing that we must raise the retirement age or privatize the program, the current Republican front-runner argues that he’ll create so much wealth in this country that we won’t need to make cuts.
Of other government programs, no other Republican candidate has uttered anything like Trump’s remark during a rally in Phoenix: "I know this doesn’t sound very conservative, but we’ve got to take care of everybody, not just the people up here," he said, holding his hand up high.
He also says single payer healthcare systems work well in other countries, even while also saying that he no longer thinks that’s what we should have here.
And while he speaks ill of the "hedge fund guys," he’s the only Republican with a good word to say about Planned Parenthood: "I would look at the good aspects of it and I would also look because I'm sure they do some things properly and good, good for women, and I would look at that," Trump told CNN.
Yes, he also told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that PP should lose all federal funding, but later seemed to backtrack on that, telling Sean Hannity on Fox News that "They do good things. There's two Planned Parenthoods in a way."
Under current law, the federal government can’t directly fund abortions, but the argument from abortion rights opponents has always been that there’s only an imaginary legal wall between abortion and non-abortion services, since the federal dollars that keep a Planned Parenthood clinic’s lights on free up other money for abortions.
Trump doesn’t seem to feel that way, though, which is why Planned Parenthood singled him out for praise.
"Donald Trump seems to have realized that banning all abortions, shutting down the government, and defunding Planned Parenthood are extreme positions that are way too far outside the mainstream for even him to take," said a statement from Eric Ferrero, PP’s vice president of communications. "We hope that the rest of the GOP field will wake up and reconsider their extreme and unpopular positions on defunding preventive care, abortion bans, and the other economic issues that women and their families care about."
On any number of other topics, it’s hard to know exactly what Trump advocates since he’s said such contradictory things. But the one way in which he’s consistent is in holding views at odds with Republican orthodoxy.
And while other Republicans talk about the outrages perpetrated by Russia under Putin, Trump told reporters in New Hampshire recently that he thinks he and the bane of Ukraine will get along fine: "I think I would have a great relationship with Russia and with Putin. I know many of the people, I had a major event there two years ago, in Moscow, it was a tremendous success; we had an amazing success."
Of course, there are plenty of reasons beyond policy or ideology for liberals (and others) to shudder at the thought of a President Trump, and some I’ve heard include thinking him an embarrassing vulgarian, finding his lack of any government experience disqualifying, not liking bullies or plain old rudeness, and not wanting to let so much bombast anywhere near the nuclear codes.
But when Democrats say they don’t understand how so many Republicans can support someone with whom they differ on policy, they might also ask themselves why they’re so much more offended by someone with whom they do agree on some things than by his rivals, with whom they agree on far less.
Or is he just the most infuriating because he’s ahead right now?
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