Donald Trump Republican or Democrat?
It's true: Donald Trump was a Democrat.
Long before the ultrawealthy real-estate magnate became President of the United States after running on the Republican Party ticket, he belonged to the party of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson. And that led to some conservatives suspecting Trump of acting on behalf of the Democrats, and in particular, the Clintons, to sabotage the GOP.
The Saturday Night Live comedian Seth Myers once quipped: “Donald Trump often talks about running as a Republican, which is surprising. I just assumed he was running as a joke.”
In a 2004 interview, Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat," explaining: "It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, I mean it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats But certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats, as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disaster under the Republicans." In a July 2015 interview, Trump said that he has a broad range of political positions and that "I identify with some things as a Democrat."
Though many conservatives suspected Trump wasn't a real conservative for a long time before the 2016 campaign, he insisted he had the credentials to win over the Republican Party's right wing.
“I am a conservative person. I am by nature a conservative person. I never looked at putting a label on myself, I wasn’t in politics," Trump said in 2015. "But if you look at my general attitudes in life I would certainly have the more conservative label put on me."
When Donald Trump Was a Democrat
It turns out you don't have to look far to find evidence that Trump wasn't always a conservative Republican.
Trump was registered as a Democrat for more than eight years in the 2000s, according to New York City voter records made public during his campaign for president in 2016.
Trump owned up to his years with the other party and told CNN he identified with Democrats during that time because they were more adept at handling the economy.
"It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, I mean it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats. ... But certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats, as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disasters under the Republicans."
Trump was a registered Democrat from August 2001 through September 2009.
Criticisms of Trump's Voting Record
Trump's inconsistency when it comes to party affiliation - he's also been registered with the Independence Party and as an independent - was an issue in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Many in the large field of presidential hopefuls criticized his affiliation with the Democrats, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“Donald Trump was a Democrat longer than he was a Republican. He's given more money to Democrats than he has to Republicans," Bush said. (Among the politicians Trump has given money to is former Secretary of State and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.)
It probably didn't help Trump's case among conservative voters that he's spoken very highly of some of Democrats who are typically vilified by conservatives including Harry Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton and even Nancy Pelosi.
Trump as a Stalking Horse
Of course, there was plenty of speculation during the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination that Trump was trying to sabotage the GOP candidates by saying outrageous things and making a mockery of the process in a bid to help Hillary Clinton win the election.
"Donald Trump is trolling the GOP," political reporter Jonathan Allen wrote.
Trump also threatened to run for president as an independent, a move many believed would siphon votes from the Republican nominee as other, similar candidates have done in the past.
Is Donald Trump a Democratic secret agent?
Republican leaders are currently thrashing about - holding secret meetings, issuing confidential memos and making public denunciations - as they approach a state of near panic over what Donald Trump is doing to their party. It's enough to make some believe that Mr Trump may not have the Republican establishment's best interests at heart.
Could Donald Trump be a secret double-agent, sent by Democrats to destroy their party from within?
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has borne the brunt of more than a few Trump barbs, seems to think there's a possibility.
"Maybe Donald negotiated a deal with his buddy Hillary Clinton," Mr Bush tweeted this week, after Mr Trump cited a poll showing his supporters would stick with him if he left the Republican Party. "Continuing this path will put her in the White House."
The New York billionaire has a spotty political history, at best. He was a Republican, then he was a pro-choice Democrat, and now he's a fire-breathing, anti-immigration populist conservative.
Could this latest iteration of Mr Trump's political brand be just a ruse, the elaborate cover for a liberal saboteur who has spent the past year setting explosives that threaten the unity of the party he pledged to support?
He's belittling his Republican colleagues. He's pulling the party to the nativist right in direct conflict with the goal set by strategists in 2013 to appeal to a more ethnically diverse nation. And he's generally sucking up all the political oxygen, making it harder for other candidates to get their message out. All in all, many experts say he's making it much more difficult for a Republican to win the general election next fall. Maybe he's doing it on purpose.
It's a theory that has been bubbling long before Mr Bush's recent Twitter accusation.
"If Donald Trump were a Democratic mole placed in the Republican Party to disrupt things, how would his behaviour be any different?" asked conservative political commentator George Will in July. "I don't think it would be."
Just over a week later Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida called Mr Trump "a phantom candidate recruited by the left to create this entire political circus." And he laid out what is the foundation of the Trump conspiracy theories.
Donald Trump Thinks That the Democratic Party, Which Is Called the Democratic Party, Should Be Called the “Democratic Party”
Donald Trump addressed the nation at a White House event ostensibly scheduled as a Young Black Leadership summit, but which ended up functioning as the president’s platform to comment on the arrest of Florida man Cesar Sayoc, who is suspected of mailing explosive devices to the Clintons, Barack Obama, prominent members of the Democratic Party leadership, philanthropist George Soros, and CNN. The president attempted to sooth the nation with some heavily-scripted, hollow calls for unity before, uh, offering some passive aggressive advice to Democrats about how they could more effectively rebrand.
Here’s how Trump’s suggestion looks when written down, courtesy of Toronto Star Washington DC correspondent Daniel Dale.
“You notice I never say the Democratic Party. You know the word is Democrat,” Trump said, after going off script. “But when you say Democratic, it’s much nicer sounding, right? They should change their name, actually, but I’m not going to tell them that.”
Here’s the thing, Democrats actually do call themselves the Democratic Party. “Democrats” is a proper noun. “Democratic” is an adjective describing the party. When “democratic” is lower case, it’s an adjective describing aspects pertaining to the concept of democracy. Trump had more to say on the matter.
“But they say the Democratic Party. It’s not. … It’s called the Democrat Party,” the clearly confused 72-year-old said. “It doesn’t sound good, right?”
While continuing to think out loud on the subject, Trump put on his branding and marketing guru hat—his favorite hat, after all.
“I hate to say, you know, you’re making a speech and then you say the Democrat Party, and a lot of people say, ‘Oh, it should be the Democratic [Party] because it sounds so much better,” Trump said, moments after calling for bipartisan unity. “They should actually change the name. I’m giving them free advice. Change the name, because we’ll still beat them, their policies are no good, so it doesn’t matter.”
So the Democratic Party should call themselves the Democratic Party despite already calling themselves the Democratic Party. Right.
What If Trump Had Won As a Democrat?
It’s a fascinating thought experiment: Could Trump have done to the Democrats in 2016 what he did to the Republicans? Why not? There, too, he would have challenged an overconfident, message-challenged establishment candidate (Hillary Clinton instead of Jeb Bush). He would have had an even smaller number of competitors to dispatch. One could easily see him doing as well as or better than Bernie Sanders—surprising Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, winning the New Hampshire primaries, and on and on. More to the point, many of Trump’s views—skepticism on trade, sympathetic to Planned Parenthood, opposition to the Iraq War, a focus on blue-collar workers in Rust Belt America—seemed to gel as well, if not better, with blue-state America than red. Think the Democrats wouldn’t tolerate misogynist rhetoric and boorish behavior from their leaders? Well, then you’ve forgotten about Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy and LBJ and Bill Clinton.
There are, as with every what-if scenario, some flaws. Democrats would have deeply resented Trump’s "birther" questioning of Barack Obama’s origins, and would have been highly skeptical of the former reality TV star’s political bona fides even if he hadn’t made a sharp turn to the right as he explored a presidential bid in the run-up to the 2012 election. His comments on women and minorities would have exposed him to withering scrutiny among the left’s army of advocacy groups. Liberal donors would likely have banded together to strangle his candidacy in its cradle—if they weren’t laughing him off. But Republican elites tried both of these strategies in 2015, as well, and it manifestly didn’t work. What’s more, Trump did once hold a passel of progressive stances—and he had friendships all over the political map. As Bloomberg’s Josh Green notes, in his "Apprentice" days, Trump was even wildly popular among minorities. It’s not entirely crazy to imagine him outflanking a coronation-minded Hillary Clinton on the left and blitzing a weak Democratic field like General Sherman marching through Georgia. And besides, it’s fun to think about.
So how, in fact, might history have changed if Trump descended that infamous golden escalator and declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination? And how would it be (depressingly) the same?