We kissed conservatism goodbye when we let Trump lead the GOP

The problem, at least in this case, is that on top of the long-standing partisan impasse over Second Amendment rights, you’ve got Trump’s long-standing pattern of shifting under the influence of the news cycle and whatever he perceives as the popular view — a make-believe strongman whose idea of being the people’s champion is to mold himself, Play-Doh-like, to conform to whatever pleases the audience immediately in front of him. He believes in nothing, but has infinite moods.

As a longtime GOP consultant, I’ve always had a half-joking, half-serious rule about political candidates and elected officials: They can be tough, smart, decent or talented, but of those traits, they realistically only get to choose two. Trump, entirely sui generis in our politics, is a successful politician embodying none of those. He’s poorly briefed, malleable, crass and dishonest, and all he cares about is how he comes across in the press. Which makes it damn-near impossible for any self-respecting conservative to understand him, anticipate his positions or trust him on policy.

In every legislative fight, the president is a weak ally and an unreliable narrator. Except for tax cuts — the easiest thing in the world to sell (who doesn’t want a bigger paycheck?) — he can’t sell what he doesn’t understand, and that’s a lot.