None of us can do much more than speculate over what President Trump’s motivations were for siding with Democrats over the short term debt ceiling deal, but we can say that doing so doesn’t magically make him an independent (much less a centrist), no matter how many absurd articles claim otherwise.
Trump is a Nontraditional Republican – Not Centrist or Independent
Donald Trump is as much of an independent centrist as water is dry. Not only is he a member of a party, which precludes someone from being an independent – by definition, but he’s the leader of that party. Him not being the leader or a member of one of the two primary factions – establishment mainstream conservatives or Tea Party right wingers – doesn’t mean he’s not a Republican.
Like it or not, he’s a Republican. He defeated a slate of people who are what those pretending that Trump is a centrist and/or independent in a Republican primary. Millions of Republicans flocked to his rallies, donated to his campaign and the 39.2% (according to the RCP rolling average today) that give him positive approval ratings are predominantly in the Republican column.
One Bipartisan Act Does Not a Centrist Independent Make
There is no credible evidence that President Trump wants to provide a centrist or an independent alternative to the corrupt two-party system. There is, however, a great deal of evidence to suggest that he is a Republican that merely has an ego the size of the Empire State Building, and is more than willing to draw outside of the lines to try and get what he wants.
The perfect way to put this, that I’ve seen in the media a few times, is that there is a ‘specter of Trump going independent’. It’s perfect because this idea has no substance to it – much like a specter / ghostly apparition. It seems like it’s mostly just a mix of ‘never Trump’ Republicans wanting to disavow him and those with conceptions of how the two major party tents are constructed.
It’s much more likely, given the evidence seen during the campaign on through to today that he’s just someone who just isn’t a team player, and will do whatever he wants to do if he thinks it’ll lead to him getting his way.
What Trump Seems to Be Leading is ‘the Party of No’ on Steroids
Some Republicans see the rise of Trump as a sort of hostile takeover from an independent external element, but really it’s just an element that has been lurking in the shadows of the party tent for a while, and one that is light years from centrist. It’s been pulled into that tent with years of attacks on everything from liberals and Democrats to conspiracy theories like the shadowy ‘deep state’.
Now reaping what they have sewn for decades, more traditional conservative Republicans are pretending that the threat is some external force, rather than a natural side-effect to courting extremist elements for years. Not only that, but given their proclivity to supporting cults of personality type candidates like Trump, these traditional Republicans don’t seem to have a clue as to how to combat this newly coalesced faction.
Not only that, but he’s pushing to make the Republican Party even more extreme. He’s begun actively seeking more right wing candidates to run against mainstream conservatives like Jeff Flake who has criticized him, as well as moderate Republican like Dean Heller, as The Hill reported a couple months back:
Flake frequently clashed with Trump during the 2016 campaign, calling on him to withdraw after the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape showed the president bragging groping women.
While Trump’s approval ratings are underwater nationally, Arizona GOP strategists say that his favorability remains high in the state among GOP voters, ranging from 80 to 90 percent approval. Flake’s vocal criticism of Trump has inflamed Trump loyalists, opening him up to challenges from the right.
Heller, whose state went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a few points, has been in the hot seat as Senate Republicans struggle to find the votes on repealing ObamaCare. Heller has been a vocal opponent of the Senate’s repeal and replace bill, which threatens Nevada’s Medicaid expansion.
Heller’s hesitation on healthcare legislation has angered Trump allies and conservatives, who have threatened to campaign against him if he doesn’t support the Senate’s latest efforts.
A Centrist Independent Trump Would…
If Donald Trump actually was a centrist independent, he wouldn’t reach across the aisle just every once in a while – it would be a regular occurrence. Even more, a centrist Trump wouldn’t just bounce back and forth between polar opposites, but work to put together legislation that had ideas from both sides – to pull in votes to have a chance of passing, as well as ideas from the huge space between the two parties’ increasingly small ideological tents.
As narrow as those tents are, they aren’t so narrow that someone who diverges from the party line, maybe once every fifty choices they make suddenly washes away the other 49 actions that towed said line. Even the most hardcore partisan Republicans diverge now and then, in a number of ways and for a range of reasons – that doesn’t make them independents, much less centrists. It just makes them human.
Given that we’re stuck with Donald Trump in the White House for at least a few more months (probably), and maybe more – I’d love little else than to see him take a radical centrist turn for the better, go genuinely independent and… a whole slew of things that just plain aren’t in the realm of realism.
As the banner image at the top of this post alludes to, you can certainly say that Trump is even more of a two-faced figure than even most politicians are, but neither of those proverbial faces are politically centrist or independent.