The Heretical Donald Trump

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

It was a remarkable night in Greenville, South Carolina—where open warfare broke out among the Republicans who gathered at the Peace Center. The debate took place in the shadow of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier on Saturday, and opened with a moment of silence. But after that, it was all cacophony and confusion, as the stately joust gave way to open brawling. The open question, though, was whether Donald Trump has finally strayed too far from the Republican Party’s orthodoxies—or whether his defiance of the standard creed will, once again, prove key to his appeal:

Donald Trump blamed the Bush administration for failing to heed CIA warnings before 9/11; denounced the Iraq War for destabilizing the Middle East; defended the use of eminent domain; promised to protect save Social Security without trimming benefits; and said that Planned Parenthood “does wonderful things for women’s health.”

He’s fresh off a crushing victory in New Hampshire, and the prohibitive favorite in the polls in South Carolina. Will his flouting of Republican orthodoxy sink his chances—or is it his very willingness to embrace these heterodox stances that has fueled his rise?

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