Trump has remade the Republican Party as well. Just as Barry Goldwater was the precursor to Ronald Reagan bringing conservatism to Washington, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party were the precursors to Donald Trump bringing populism to Washington. Reagan oversaw an administration comprised of conservatives and establishment Republicans, and Trump will oversee an administration comprised of populists and establishment Republicans. The difference is the establishment is more conservative than it was 30 years ago.
And it will have to adapt. Trump, said Peter Thiel in an October speech at the National Press Club, “points to a new Republican Party beyond the dogmas of Reaganism. He points even beyond the remaking of one party to a new American politics that overcomes denial, rejects bubble thinking, and reckons with reality.” The relationship between the movement conservatives and Bush-Baker Republicans was often rocky during the Reagan presidency. So will the relationship between populists and Romney-Ryan Republicans during the Trump presidency.
In the end, of course, Reagan is considered a successful president because he stuck to his program of reviving America’s economy, military, and morale. Trump, too, will be judged on his program: four years from now, will America, in particular the Trump coalition, be able to say that greatness is within reach? There will be scandals galore and plenty of criticism from Democrats, the media, and even some Republicans. Government spending is about to go up, up, up. But if the wall is built, and factories return to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere, and taxes are reduced and simplified, and Obamacare is replaced, none of that will matter. What this campaign result teaches is that the noise does not matter. More than 20 men and women ran for the presidency of the United States in 2016. Only Donald Trump remains.