How Trump wrongs the right

ut while Trump is not a conservative and does not deserve conservatives’ support, Republicans can nonetheless learn from him. Most politicians cannot hope to match Trump’s flair for the dramatic and should not try to compete with him in displays of narcissism or contempt. But politicians have been known to cultivate excitement and glamour — think of Reagan, or Bill Clinton, or Obama. These qualities have been missing from Republican politics for a long time. Republicans could, without going the full Trump, stand to be a little less apologetic and defensive under media criticism.

For weeks, Trump simultaneously stayed on top of the polls and promised to raise taxes on rich people. His eventual proposal on taxes bore no resemblance to that promise, which is a good thing: The federal government needs to slim down, not be given more sustenance. But the fact that Trump’s polling did not suffer even a modest drop after his soak-the-rich comments should tell other Republicans that the priorities of the donors they meet at fundraisers are not the same as those of the voters whose support they need. Cutting taxes is generally desirable, but Republicans need not base all their economic and budget policies on slashing tax rates on the highest earners.

Trump’s Republican rivals should change their approach to immigration, too. They don’t need to endorse his quixotic campaign to end birthright citizenship. But more of them ought to acknowledge that experience has raised deep and justified doubts about promises of immigration enforcement following an amnesty. The best way to allay this concern is for enforcement to come first. Only later, after establishing that granting legal status to illegal immigrants here will not lead to a greater influx of illegal immigrants, should an amnesty be considered. Republicans should acknowledge, as well, that the country has no pressing need for a vast expansion in the number of people doing low-skilled labor. Such a policy should have no place in any immigration compromise.

A Republican party that promised fewer tax cuts for the rich and less cheap labor would have less to offer some of its top donors, but it would have a stronger connection to its voters. Many of those donors, being wise investors, would accept the trade.