So if movement conservatives have so little objection to Trump’s racial appeals, what explains the intensity of their rage? The disagreement lies in his commitment. For Republicans, white identity politics is a political style. A Republican presidential candidate might run on Willie Horton and opposing same-sex marriage, but after being elected, he was expected to turn to reducing the top tax rate and deregulating business. Cultural appeal was the means, and economics the ends. What conservatives fear is that Trump might upend that delicate, unstated system by turning the means into the ends.
Their fear is by no means unfounded. Trump may currently line up with Republican doctrine, but he has not always. He has in the past praised single-payer health care, proposed higher taxes on the wealthy, and supported Democrats, casting justifiable suspicions on his true intentions. Those fears are compounded by worrisome gestures he makes toward economic populism. Trump has promised to save Social Security, to raise taxes on the rich, to let Medicare negotiate down the price of the prescription drugs it finances, and to replace Obamacare with “something terrific.” What’s more, Trump’s economic populism has reached a constituency within the party.