Soon after announcing his candidacy, Donald Trump jumped out to an early lead in Republican presidential primary polling and never lost it. No matter how pollsters sorted respondents—registered Republicans, likely Republican voters, Republican leaners, whatever—Trump maintained a clear lead throughout the primary calendar and in the end won nearly twice the number of primary votes as his closest rival. The belief, widespread in elite conservative circles, that a split field helped his chances is unfounded; he consistently led in various head-to-head matchups with his GOP primary opponents. He won more closed primaries than any other candidate, and carried registered Republicans in every open primary he won. Nearly 90 percent of voters who identified as Republicans cast a ballot for Trump in the general election, the same number that had voted for John McCain in 2008 and barely fewer than had voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
In seven months of governing, Donald Trump has not made a single appointment that a Republican president plucked at random from Congress could not conceivably have also made. His signature accomplishment to date has been the appointment to the Supreme Court of a far-right jurist beloved by the conservative establishment, the culmination of an obscene, antidemocratic, Republican plot to deprive the previous president of his constitutional power to fill the seat. His Education Secretary is a billionaire heiress who has devoted her adult life to the erosion of public education, a mainstream Republican goal for many decades. His Treasury Secretary is a former Goldman Sachs executive intent on dismantling what few consumer protections and checks on the financial industry’s power remain, another core GOP objective. His Attorney General is a lifelong Republican who personifies the GOP’s postwar realignment into a party sustained by racist law-and-order appeals to white voters concentrated in the South.
Donald Trump stands for the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich—the supreme principle around which Republican politics have been organized for even longer than they have championed white supremacy. Indeed, if anything separates him from the typical Republican politician, it is that he is especially Republican, a Republican’s Republican, in the degree to which his life has exemplified the party’s all-consuming drive to redistribute wealth upwards. He inherited millions from his father and used it to build a real-estate empire on the back of nearly $1 billion in public subsidies and tax breaks and untold millions in unpaid labor. In his latter days in the private sector, he used his celebrity to exploit and defraud vulnerable working people, and his election to the presidency was nothing if not the same fraud on a massive scale, a great victory for the wealthiest and most powerful won through a false prosperity-gospel swindling of crucial working-class voting blocs in the Rust Belt and elsewhere. In this he pulled off an only slightly more lurid version of the cons Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had successfully run before him.