Is Donald Trump Already Veering Left?

By The Stream Published on February 8, 2016

Donald Trump, who was apparently a liberal Democrat for much of his colorful career, has spent his campaign for the Republican nomination declaring he’s conservative. He even compares his party switch to that of Ronald Reagan. The question since Trump entered the race has been his sincerity. Would he move back to the left once he wins the nomination … or the presidency?

Byron York argues in a new column out today that we don’t have to wait for an answer. Trump’s already heading back to his ideological home. During his speech Sunday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire:

Trump railed against pharmaceutical companies. He railed against oil companies. And insurance companies. And defense contractors. And he set himself against a political system that he said allows big-money corporate “bloodsuckers” to control the government with campaign contributions. …

Trump promised to allow the government to negotiate drug prices — a common position among Democrats but rarely heard at nominally Republican events. He said he would not raise military spending, arguing that the nation’s defenses can be improved without increasing its already huge Pentagon budget. He promised tough sanctions on American companies that move jobs overseas. …

There were portions of Trump’s Plymouth speech that sounded like Bernie Sanders, if Sanders had Trump’s sense of showmanship.

In fact, as York points out, Trump praised the avowed socialist by name Sunday, saying they agreed on trade and that Hillary Clinton is compromised by her big-money contributions.

York isn’t the only one pointing out that Trump and Sanders have more in common than huge leads in New Hampshire and guest shots on Saturday Night Live. On the other side of the political spectrum, National Public Radio asked this morning, “What Do Sanders and Trump Have in Common? More Than You Think.”

NPR notes that Trump and Sanders “are channeling the anger of people who feel the American Dream is no longer within reach … people who feel the political system is rigged, that there’s so much money in politics.” While the two do have some major policy differences, such as on immigration and social issues, “there are times when these two candidates may as well be speaking from the same script.” NPR compares their actual quotes on trade, on social security and on infrastructure:

Trump: “We have infrastructure we have to fix. We have bridges and roads and tunnels, and everything is falling apart.”

Sanders: “We need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and invest one trillion dollars in our roads and our bridges and our rail system.”

The two New Yorkers have one more thing in common: If the latest polls hold, both men are heading for double-digit victories Tuesday in New Hampshire. Monday’s RealClear politics average shows Trump expanding his lead to 17 points, while Sanders is still up by 12.8, though the race is tightening.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait doesn’t simply underscore Trump’s liberal positions. He argues “Why Liberals Should Support a Trump Republican Nomination.” Trump isn’t Chait’s favorite, but he insists that Trump would likely lose the general election, and even if he won, Trump might “upend” the GOP because of “how little he or his supporters care about (the conservative) anti-government ideology.” Chait also suggests Trump would be just like former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took office on Republican principles, but “reversed course”:  “When conventional Republican governance made him unpopular, he had no incentive to go down with the party ship,” writes Chait, adding, “The only thing Schwarzenegger really craved was popularity.”

For Chait, the Trump/Schwarzenegger comparison offers hope. For conservatives it likely serves as a warning.

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