Say what you want to say about Donald J Trump, but even if he doesn’t win the election in November, there is no doubt in my mind that he has helped transform the Republican Party, and by extension, the conservative movement.
And, no, I am not talking here about immigration, trade and foreign policies. In fact, I have a feeling that notwithstanding his bombastic election campaign rhetoric about building walls, imposing huge tariffs on Chinese imports, deporting illegals and ending NATO, the Republican presidential nominee isn’t as “nativist,” “protectionist” and “isolationist,” as he is portrayed to be.
My guess is that a President Trump would prove to be a policy clone of President Richard Nixon when it comes to these issues, less of a libertarian on trade and immigration and less of a neocon on foreign policy than most members of the current GOP establishment. And from an historical perspective, that’s not really a Big Deal: More a return to normalcy than a transformative Republican president.
But there is one thing I am quite sure about: If elected or not elected, the Donald would probably be recalled as the one of the most libertine presidential nominees ever. And that includes Warren Harding and Bill Clinton.
Let’s face it. Trump was elected the presidential nominee by a political party that is allegedly being controlled by the Christian Right and accused by liberal critics of being intolerant, anti-women, and anti-gay, you know, the caricature of the American Taliban that would outlaw abortion, revoke the right of same-sex marriages, and basically return the country to the pre-Enlightenment era.
A lot of cognitive dissonance to get around here, if you consider that the Donald is a thrice married man, with his latest wife being a former fashion model who had appeared on nude photos, who has spent his entire personal and professional life in the most liberal American city when it comes to social-cultural issues, with only San Francisco being even more secular and sinful. Recall those “New York Values?” Trump probably respects them more than he does some of the Ten Commandments.
Trump had probably spent more time partying in Studio 54 than attending services at the Marble Collegiate Church (Trump was never an “active member,” according to a church statement). And the business types and entertainers from Manhattan, Hollywood and Las Vegas, that are on his list of friends, include a larger number of non-believers and immoral characters, like the late Roy Cohn, that would probably end up in Hell than many the of the true believers that are supposed to be part of the GOP electoral base who would be heading to Heaven.
Just compare Trump to the last Republican president and those who were running for the party’s presidential nomination, or for that matter to the current Democratic presidential nominee, a devout Methodist, and Trump who has been backed by gay Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel and the trans woman celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, clearly stands out as an irreligionist public figure, even more than President Barack Obama (who probably is a closet atheist).
And while other daughters of famous politicians, Carolyn Kennedy and Chelsea Clinton who had married Jewish men but refused to convert to Judaism (Kennedy’s kids are being raised as Catholics), Trump has welcomed the conversion of his daughter Ivanka to Judaism before she married a modern orthodox Jewish man. So at least we have one Trump who is practicing a religion (even if perhaps it’s not the right religion).
So from the perspective of those who regarded the GOP as the political party that embodies traditional Christian values as opposed to the liberal secular Democrats, Trump running as the Republican presidential nominee could prove to be transformative. It not only opens the party’s doors to the likes of Thiel and Jenner but could also create the conditions for its social-cultural evolution from a pseudo-theocratic political movement to an openly secular one in which membership requirements doesn’t include adherence to religious dogmas. Or at least that’s what I hope: From my laptop to God!