It’s Not Reagan’s Party Anymore

For more than 30 years, the Republican Party was defined by Ronald Reagan’s famous three-legged stool: a coalition of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and national security hawks.It’s not Reagan’s party anymore.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesToday, a majority of Republicans oppose many of the positions that defined the party as recently as a decade ago, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released last week.Only around one-third of Republican voters takes the traditionally conservative side on each of same-sex marriage, entitlements and America’s role in the world — three issues that defined George W.

Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign and correspond with each leg of Reagan’s stool.*The question asked in 2005 was specifically about Social Security privatization; when Pew later asked the question used in the Times/Siena survey in 2013, 53 percent of Republican-leaners preferred debt reduction.

Sources: New York Times/Siena College (July 2023 poll); Pew Research Center (2005).

The sample includes Republicans and Republican-leaning voters.Instead, the survey suggests that the Republican Party and conservative movement have been redefined by the rise of Donald Trump’s conservative populism.

On trade, immigration, entitlements and foreign affairs, a majority of Republicans side with Trump on the very issues that badly split Republicans a decade ago.Trump’s first primary campaign amounted to a hostile takeover of the old Republican Party.

He said he opposed the Iraq War and favored an America First foreign policy.

He ran against the fiscal conservatives, epitomized by Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, who would cut entitlement spending to reduce the debt.

And while he did not run against social conservatives, no one could confuse Trump for a member of the religious right.

Instead, immigration, crime and political correctness figured more prominently in his campaign than opposition to abortion or same-sex marriage.Perhaps surprisingly, the poll found little evidence that Republican voters who still sit upon Reagan’s stool make up an outsize share of the GOP opposition to Trump.

The voters who take the Bush-Reagan side of same-sex marriage, entitlements and foreign affairs offer nearly as much support to Trump as the rest of the party does — a finding that holds even if one substitutes an alternative set of questions about abortion, preference for tax cuts over tariffs, and aid to Ukraine to define the Reagan wing.

Either way, Trump has more than 50% of the primary vote among the Reaganites — and more than 50% of the anti-Reaganite vote.Trump’s support among the vestigial, traditionally conservative wing of the party is a reminder that his takeover of the party didn’t necessarily amount to a total repudiation of the conservative agenda.

After all, Trump still cut income taxes, attempted to repeal Obamacare and appointed Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v.

Wade.Trump’s alliance with social conservatives, in particular, seems to play a crucial part in sustaining his support among traditional conservatives overall.

Republican voters who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion offer Trump even greater support than voters with more moderate views on these issues.

This seems to cancel out the more modest reservations traditional conservatives have about Trump’s views on foreign affairs and entitlements.Yet at the same time, Republicans remain divided by the new issues that defined Trump’s candidacy in 2016, including trade and immigration along with an isolationist foreign policy and defense of entitlements.

In these cases, voters are siding with Trump’s populist conservatism over the positions taken by Reagan and Bush.

Free trade and support for immigration reform may not have amounted to a leg of a Bush-Reagan stool, but the opposing view on these issues might amount to a leg in any golden stool Trump might one day seek to build.Republicans who take Trump’s view on trade, immigration, entitlements and foreign affairs back him by an overwhelming margin in the primary.

The Republicans who disagree with Trump’s view on these issues oppose the former president by just as much.

But those who agree with Trump’s positions greatly outnumber those who do not.Source: New York Times/Siena College poll, July 23-27.

The sample includes Republicans and Republican-leaning voters.Of course, it’s possible — even likely — that loyalty to Trump plays a crucial role in shaping Republican attitudes on these issues, rather than attitudes on the issues driving loyalty to Trump.Either way, there’s not much room for an issue-based, ideological challenge to Trump in today’s Republican Party.

While large numbers of Republicans may disagree with him on an issue here or there, a frontal assault on the tenets of Trumpism is unlikely to go anywhere.

Zombie-Reaganism certainly will not.c.2023 The New York Times Company View comments


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