Ezra Klein noted last weekend, Donald Trump Is the Perfect “Moderate.” But you need to know what he means by “moderate.” He’s talking about how moderates are very often extremists on individual issues, which just cancel out to create a “moderate” voter. So let’s suppose that you are in favor of a $15 minimum wage and for ending all immigration. Well, the first belief would be marked as extremely liberal and the second belief would be marked as extremely conservative. Thus, such a person would be considered a “moderate.”
Klein noted that Trump has these exact same jumble of views, which make him a moderate. He might sound very conservative on immigration and foreign affairs. But there is another side to him:
This is all pretty standard stuff, and this is why I’ve been saying for a while that I would prefer to see Trump nominated. It isn’t, like with many liberals, that I think Trump would lose in the general election (although I think he would). It is rather that his opinions are far better than the rest of the Republican field. His conservative opinions are no worse than those of Jeb Bush or Scott Walker.
But I’m afraid that Klein is falling into the same trap that he is writing about. You can’t just throw all political beliefs into a single bucket. As I write about a lot, a populist in this country is an economic liberal and a social conservative. So it is ironic that the two major political parties are more conservative on economic issues than the vast majority of the voters.
So what can we say about Donald Trump? By the standard of American politics, he seems to be an economic liberal. And I would say that being anti-immigrant is part of that. It also goes along with his skepticism regarding free trade. The only place that he is clearly conservative is on foreign affairs. On social issues, he is kind of a mixture.
To a large extent, what liberals and conservatives get from their candidates is not policy. There are a few things they care about, but what they most care about is an attitude. For conservatives, that attitude is “strength.” And that is certainly what Trump appeals to.
What the other Republican presidential candidates have to offer are consistently repugnant ideas. All they offer that makes them more acceptable is that they aren’t willing to say things like, “Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers.” But the immigration policies that they favor are the same as those Trump favors. So just how are they more acceptable? It’s all about what can and cannot be said in polite company. And that’s meaningless. If Trump is unacceptable (and I think he is), then all the Republicans are unacceptable. But given that they say and do what all the other Republicans presidential candidates say, the mainstream press treats them like they are acceptable. It’s sad.