Conservatives have been pretty universally delighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s appointments so far. With Jeff Sessions, Rick Perry, Gen. James Mattis, Mick Mulvaney, Betsy DeVos, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price and others slated to join the administration, pundits like me who worried that Trump wasn’t far enough to the right are looking silly.
But what happened? Trump has no track record as a conservative to speak of, and not many people change their politics at age 70. What has made Trump seemingly the Democratic Party’s worst nightmare? Was he a closet right-winger all along?
I don’t think so. My guess is that throughout the general election campaign and continuing to the present, Trump has been stunned by the insane outpouring of hatred against him and his family from the Left and the Democratic Party. My guess is that he didn’t see it coming. He wasn’t particularly conservative, and had never had anything to do with the social issues, the main locus of left-wing venom. As an urban real estate developer, he had worked collegially with Democrats in various cities. He had been a Democrat for much of his life; heck, he even had been a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He must have been shocked by the hysterical hatred that the Democrats unleashed against him and his wife and children. Trump spends a fair amount of time on Twitter; how do you think he felt when he saw that #RapeMelania was one of the top trending hashtags?
One thing we know about Trump is that if you hit him, he will hit back. During the campaign, he didn’t react much to the hatred that was unleashed against him, but I think we are seeing his response now. The liberals wanted war, so war they will get. Trump knows where his friends are–on the right–and it looks like that is where he will govern.
It was inevitable that the campaign would push Trump to the right. Even under normal circumstances, he would have come under attack by the Democrats, some of it unfair. But the extreme nature of this year’s campaign–the constant slurs against Trump as a racist, an anti-Semite (that one was particularly absurd) and so on, the explicit effort to “de-normalize” him as a candidate and as a President, the idiotic and futile attempt to deprive Trump of his victory by bribing and threatening electors–can only have created in Trump a steely resolve to defeat his enemies (in some cases, his former friends), the liberals.
That’s pure speculation. But my guess is that by the unprecedented, over-the-top vitriol they have unleashed against Trump and his family, the Democrats have made a bad situation–for them–worse.
PAUL ADDS: If John is right, we will probably see a vicious cycle for the Democrats. The more conservative Trump becomes, the more savagely they will attack him. The more savagely they attack him, the more conservative he may become.