Let it not be forgotten just how long the Republican old guard held out in regards to accepting Trump as the GOP presidential candidate – until the day they absolutely had to. Once the inevitable had been accepted, they did the only logical thing left to them and embraced the previously disliked character as wholeheartedly as would be believable. Yet they really did make one hell of a Faustian bargain in the process, something some of them are only coming to terms with now.
The latest thing that will have Republican grandees wishing they’d just taken a dive and lost the last presidential election, come what may, is Trump having struck a deal with House Democrats around border security and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a programme built around allowing children of illegal immigrants remain in the US). This is, on the surface of it, a pivotal moment in US politics – a Republican president burning his party, making a deal with the other side and conceding ground on a hot topic, immigration in this case, where there are huge differences of opinion on both sides of the aisle. In other words, Trump has just given the Democrats something in regards to immigration that should not only make his party furious, but his legions of fans as well.
None of this should come as any surprise though – Trump isn’t really a Republican anyhow. He isn’t really ideological in any way; he just likes to tell people what they want to hear and then bask in the glow of it all. When Trump was running, he threw out longstanding shibboleths of the Right, such as dedication to NATO and free trade, without worrying most pundits on the Right for whatever reason. Now they can see that he just doesn’t care – he’s going to do whatever it takes to “get the job done”.
This could have existential consequences for the GOP. Post-Trump, what does it stand for? What does it stand for now, come to think of it, while you have a Republican president in the White House who bad mouths Mitch McConnell in public while openly doing deals with Democrats? But one group in particular on the Right have got into bed with the devil when they backed Trump: the religious Right.
Although it is happening at a less steep rate than in western European countries, religion is actually in decline in America. Again, slowly, but nonetheless surely. One of the things the religious Right have been able to do so successfully is ensure that at the very top of the pole, at every presidential election, there would always be a man of God sat behind the Oval Office desk. They made it so if you wanted to be the Republican candidate, you had to be devout in your Christianity – and then that left the Democrats having to prove they had no deficiency in the piousness department, meaning whomever won the election, the religious Right did okay. Yet they let a man who is so obviously non-religious become the Republican candidate in 2016. They’ve let the cat out of the bag – if it can happen once, it can happen again. They let go of their choke hold on this portion of American life and it may cost their crusade dearly.