This is your daily reminder that Donald Trump is blowing up the foundations of Republican policy orthodoxy, and that even if he loses the GOP presidential nomination the party itself may never be the same.
That was our reaction to Tuesday’s Trump interview with “Fox & Friends,” in any case. And it had nothing to do with the part about The Donald being happy that Lena Dunham has vowed to move to Canada if he wins. Nope – what got us thinking were his remarks about Social Security, the mother of all government entitlement programs.
“Fox & Friends” is a comfortable venue for Mr. Trump. The billionaire developer/TV star has long phoned in to the morning chat/news show and bantered with co-host Steve Doocy and the gang about the latest whatever. They don’t particularly push him. It’s not “Meet the Press,” nor is it meant to be.
Tuesday’s call-in was typical. Trump criticized the Kasich-Cruz nonaggression pact, calling it “pathetic.” He boasted about his latest polls.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade brought up Ms. Dunham, of “Girls” fame, saying that she’s threatening to move to Vancouver, British Columbia, if Trump gains the White House. Others chimed in claiming that Rosie O’Donnell, Jon Stewart, and Whoopi Goldberg have made similar move-to-Canada claims.
“Now I have to get elected, because I’ll be doing a great service to our country,” said Trump.
That’s probably the headline Trump-obsessed media will take from the conversation. But the GOP front-runner also briefly blipped into campaign mode, and said this: “Social Security is being absolutely decimated.”
He pointed out that his Republican opponents are proposing to cut Social Security’s costs as a way to strengthen the program’s fiscal projections.
“They all want to kill Social Security. I’m the only one – we’re going to make our country rich. We’re going to be able to afford Social Security,” said Trump.
You know who else talks like that? Democrats. Democratic presidential candidates have run against perceived GOP plans to gut Social Security and Medicare for decades.
You know who’s the poster person for Republican plans to try and reform (Democrats would say “gut”) entitlement programs? House Speaker Paul Ryan. He’s supported raising the Social Security retirement age and proposed a privatized system for younger taxpayers.
Yes, that’s the same Paul Ryan the GOP establishment hopes in its heart might emerge as its champion at a contested convention to vanquish Trump.
Trump’s Tuesday remarks on Social Security were nothing new. He’s unique in the GOP field for saying he’d defend Social Security and Medicare against all attempts to reduce benefits.
He’s also unique in that he’s the only candidate left who can win an outright delegate majority in the primaries. He remains the front-runner and the man to beat. The core of his support is working class white Republicans – a demographic that relies on big government a lot more than boardroom types.
Does the rise of Trump mean the Republican Party’s ideological perspective on the size of Washington and its fiscal responsibilities could be changing in front of our eyes?
Well, Trump’s already blown up the party’s position on immigration, for example. He’s made a tough line against illegal immigrants into a litmus test for the right, exposing the fact that the traditional GOP platform isn’t inscribed on a stone tablet. There are different factions in the party, and they have different priorities. Win or lose, Trump has attracted a lot of followers – and they haven’t blinked an eye at his Social Security stance.
Consider this bit of evidence. Fox News is often described as an arm of the Republican Party, writ large. It leans right at the least. It was just one moment, but on Tuesday after Trump referred to Social Security, co-host Mr. Kilmeade said one word.
Then the show moved on to other subjects.