Tribalism also trumps (no pun intended) ideology and consistency. There’s a chicken and an egg question as to whether Trump has changed the GOP or whether Trump was the more accurate reflection of the party. After all, his success was built on the foundation set by the Tea Party triumphs of the Obama-era and the long-running demographic re-alignment of the party from that of mostly white collar, suburban voters to one dominated by blue collar and rural voters. Trump didn’t “change” the party as much as the leaders in DC simply didn’t understand it had already changed.
The tribal theory argues that the party will mold to fit its leader, even if his/her policies are out of step with their traditional orthodoxy. In other words, once your team has a new coach, you follow their game plan, not the one that was drafted by the previous team leader.
Ask most Republican members of Congress — especially those in red states and districts — what they hear most when they go home, and they’ll tell you it’s “You need to support Trump more. You need to follow his lead.” When 90 percent of Republicans say they approve of the job Trump is doing, it’s hard to argue that Republicans should be doing more to “protect the GOP brand.”