Conventional wisdom holds that Donald Trump has taken over the Republican Party. That’s been the conclusion of articles in The New Yorker, Mother Jones, New York, The Washington Post, The Hill, Politico, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Telegraph, USA Today, Time, the New York Post, The Boston Globe, and beyond.
Most recently, the PBS show Frontline titled an episode “Trump’s Takeover.” In its telling, President Trump wasn’t yet in control of the GOP as recently as his failed effort to get a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare through Congress. Then, he succeeded in signing a tax-reform bill into law. In the celebration that followed, he was praised by Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Orrin Hatch, even as critics like Senator Jeff Flake were preparing to step away from politics.
“What the Republican establishment now knows,” Corey Lewandowski proclaimed, what they’ve “learned in the last year,” is that Trump is the GOP’s leader. “He is the one who sets the tone of what takes place in Washington, he is the leader of our country … both politically and from a legislative side of things.”
But is that really so?
Yes, Trump beat a big field to become president, he is more popular among GOP voters than any rival, many elected Republicans fear publicly crossing him at the moment, and he is influential in setting the tone in Washington. Still, the conclusion that he has taken over the Republican Party is overstated and premature.