Though Donald Trump ran for President as a member of the Republican party, several have questioned whether he is a real conservative. He has come out against things like the North American Free Trade Agreement, but NAFTA was the “vision” of Ronald Reagan. Support for free trade deals like the TPP have come from current Republicans in Congress while Trump lambasts free trade as the reason for our loss of manufacturing jobs. He has advocated for things like “government healthcare, a woman’s right to an abortion, an assault weapons ban, and paying off the national debt by forcing rich people to forfeit 14.25 percent of their total wealth,” according to a piece written in the Atlantic. Stances many Republicans would detest.
Donald Trump is No Conservative
All of these points and positions lead to one conclusion: Mr. Trump is no conservative. Donald Trump has no real philosophy, ideology, or in-depth policy positions that guide his judgment on a day-to-day basis, let alone deep conviction with conservative values.
Why then did Republicans vote for a nominee who doesn’t seem to have these strong roots in conservatism?
It’s About the Team
We would argue it is not necessarily anything that Trump stands for. It has more to do with a sports mentality that has overtaken political partisans.
A study conducted in 2015 by Patrick Miller and Pamela Johnston Conover out of the University of Utah found something interesting. They found that individuals with connections to political parties are more likely to vote based on competition between their party, and their opposition, rather than which candidate endorses the better platform or issue stances.
Competition forces repeated comparisons between the parties and accentuates the loss of status both real and symbolic that will occur if one’s party is defeated, (Miller and Conover, 2015).
Competitve dynamics, much more so than issues per se, motivate campaigning and turnout. Thus, during elections, partisan identities fuel rivarly and anger, which encourages campaign and turnout, (Miller and Conover, 2015).
Democrats and Republicans with strong identities perceive the opposing party as rivals who are fundamentally immoral and cannot be trusted; likewise, they are enraged at each other for “destroying American democracy,” (Miller and Conover, 2015).
People vote for candidates from their party simply because of their inherent distrust and distaste for their political opponents. Taking Donald Trump as an example, Republicans and conservatives, if they voted solely on issues, should have immediately rejected this man in the general election. His stances on abortion rights, assault weapons, tax increases, and several others highlight a more liberal platform.
But an inherent competitiveness between parties led to the election of a man who is at his base, not a conservative. He is at best a populist with no real ties to political leanings and only wants to “win” for winning’s sake, a dangerous sentiment when dealing with policy decisions that affect millions of people’s lives.
Fight Back Against this Inherent Political Competitiveness
Now we are not saying that this is the sole reason that Republicans and other Americans supported Donald Trump. But it is clear that this competition plays too strong of a role in our decisions. One’s “team” winning is more important than the best policy solutions to the nation’s problems. To have a deliberative democracy, we must recognize this flaw in human beings and overcome it. Do not vote and get involved in politics just to ensure your “team” wins. Get involved based on well-researched positions on issues that attempt to make people’s lives better, and the United States stronger.