Republicans will not find an exact ideological match in Donald Trump, says a GOP strategist
But it will be hard for the new president to break the inertia of Washington, he says
Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works for the podcast.
Despite Donald Trump’s strongly conservative cast of Cabinet nominees, a veteran strategist who worked for a pro-Trump super PAC predicts the new presidency will be unpredictable, at times confounding members of both parties.
“There’s a lot of Democrat in Donald Trump. There’s a lot of Republican in Donald Trump,” Alex Castellanos told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files” podcast, produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
Castellanos, who initially opposed Trump’s candidacy but supported him during the general election, believes the President-elect’s lack of ideological rigidity “may help him become an effective president.”
That’s because while a chasm separates the Democratic Party from many of the policies Trump espoused on the campaign trail, Castellanos cautioned that instead of taking Trump too literally, one should view much of what he says like an opening bid in a negotiation.
“He’s a dealmaker. He always starts somewhere beyond where he hopes to end up. So, yes, by definition, he’s going too far,” Castellanos argued, while referencing Trump’s positions on free trade, his incendiary language toward immigrants, and his less than stout defense of America’s commitment to NATO.
“I think in many ways Donald Trump is a corporatist. He’s a CEO — not, in many ways, unlike Mitt Romney,” said Castellanos, who went on to express hope that Trump’s business acumen would transfer over as he began the work of strengthening the American economy.
As Castellanos studies the challenges that await Trump when he takes office, he fears that the sclerosis of government institutions might prove too resistant to change.
“I think a lot of people are concerned that the disruption that he may bring would be too large and would be, perhaps, frightening and uncertain,” Castellanos said, adding his concern is “that the institutions of government have so much mass and inertia, there’s so much poured cement, that I think his challenge will be to be as transformational as the country needs. I think bringing enough change is going to be the problem, ultimately.”
Looking further into the future, Castellanos advised his fellow Republicans to not take an undue amount of comfort in Trump’s victory, because their party still has its own challenges to confront.
“Our Republican Party was in such (terrible) shape that an outsider who’d never been part of it came in and mowed down sixteen of our best and brightest,” Castellanos declared. “That’s how hollow we were and how little value we provided. So, we still haven’t fixed that problem.”
To hear the whole conversation with Castellanos, which also covered his experience leaving Cuba as a young boy and how he felt after learning of Fidel Castro’s death, his views on the importance of storytelling and authenticity in politics, why he believes the 2016 campaign was an “alpha dog election,” and much more, click on http://podcast.cnn.com. To get “The Axe Files” podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.