One has to wonder, though, as populists lay waste to Republican incumbents. Remember Eric Cantor? Trump’s supporters seem to be taking over the party, just as the Christian Right swatted aside Goldwater’s objections on the way to turning issues like abortion and opposition to gay rights into Republican litmus tests. The marginalization of first Goldwater conservatism, and now, three decades later, its descendant, Flake conservatism, reveals that the Republican Party’s ideals are far more malleable than the conservatism espoused by Goldwater and Flake.
Many Republicans want to win and will sacrifice conservative values for electoral power. But if Trumpism takes over the party, it will also have to prove capable of governing. So far, the president’s successes have added up mainly to anti-government – using executive orders to undo as much of the Obama legacy as he can manage. The policymaking, which requires members of Congress to work together for tax and health-care reform, has not yet been realized.