Imagine for a moment if Donald Trump made the decision to run for president as a Democrat instead of as a Republican.
As Trump-mania continues to dominate the Republican presidential primary, it’s not hard to envision an alternate reality – one where the real estate billionaire is taking the country by storm as a Democrat.
In many ways, it would have been easier for Trump to enter the Democratic primary than the Republican primary. Trump was registered as a Democrat from 2001 to 2009 and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid over the years. (In fairness, he has donated a lot of money to Republican candidates as well.)
As a native of liberal New York City, it’s not surprising that Trump has a much longer record of being pro-choice than he does of being pro-life.
“I support a woman’s right to choose,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2000.
Trump was never a staunch opponent of gay marriage either until recently. In fact, Rick Santorum says that Trump chided him in 2011 for being “too hard-core” on gay marriage and abortion.
“I don’t know anyone that shares that opinion with you,” Santorum said Trump told him.
So it’s not too hard to envision Trump running as a socially liberal Democrat. Indeed, it would seemingly be a far easier act for the thrice-married New Yorker to pull off than convincing evangelicals that he is staunchly pro-life and against gay marriage.
On foreign policy, Trump isn’t all that different from Barack Obama. To the extent his foreign policy worldview is comprehensible, he comes across as the least hawkish candidate in the GOP field, with the possible exception of Rand Paul, even though rhetoric sometimes masks this. While he says he wants to increase military spending and “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, he regularly makes the case for reducing America’s leadership role in world affairs and focusing on nation building at home.
“I’ll tell you what, there is going to be nation building. You know what the nation’s going to be? The United States, that’s what the nation’s going to be,” Trump told me in September, speaking of his foreign policy outlook.
As Trump also repeatedly highlights, he opposed the Iraq war (though the first evidence of this comes from 2004, over a year after the war began). Such a position is far more endearing to the Democratic base than Hillary Clinton’s support for the military action that removed Saddam from power.
Trump wouldn’t be out of place on economic issues in a Democratic primary either. At this anti-Wall Street moment, Trump could paint himself as the insider who is ready to turn enemy of his class for the good of the country.
What’s more, Trump has a record of favoring proposals that would be far more vexing to the one percent than anything Bernie Sanders has proposed. In 1999, Trump proposed a one-time 14.25 percent tax on wealthy Americans and trusts over $10 million. Even now he doesn’t back away from that proposal philosophically, even though he says he doesn’t intend to pursue it in the White House.
“At that time we could have paid off the entire national debt and we could have started the game all even,” Trump told Sean Hannity in August, noting that the proposal was actually “very conservative.”
Trump is also a supporter of universal health care, if not Obamacare.
“I am going to take care of everybody,” Trump said on “60 Minutes” in September. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
Trump even praised the single payer health care programs of Canada and Scotland during the first Republican presidential debate in August.
“As far as single payer, it works in Canada, it works incredibly well in Scotland, it could have worked in a different age, which is the age you are talking about here,” Trump said when asked by the moderators about his past support for single payer health care.
Of course Trump would have had to made the strategic decision to position himself to run in 2016 as a Democrat way back in 2010, before he went on his birther kick. You probably can’t win a Democratic primary as one of the leading birthers in the country.
His rhetoric on immigration also wouldn’t fly in a Democratic primary. But if he made the decision to position himself as a Democrat contender back in 2010, he would never have called for the deportation of all the illegal immigrants in the country. In fact, after Mitt Romney lost in 2012, Trump criticized the Republican contender’s rhetoric on immigration as “mean-spirited,” which suggests Trump’s instincts on illegal immigration may be less harsh than what we are seeing today
“The Democrats didn’t have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it,” Trump told Newsmax. “They didn’t know what the policy was, but what they were is they were kind.”
But if Trump made the decision to run as a Democrat in 2010, he may be even better positioned to win the Democratic presidential nomination today than he is to win the Republican nomination. The Democratic field is far smaller and with Joe Biden’s decision to not enter the race, there is no candidate opposing Hillary Clinton who people can actually imagine winning the nomination, even if Sanders could potentially threaten her in a few states.
Trump may have been that guy. He could have successfully branded Clinton as untrustworthy and even criminal over her email scandal and shady Clinton Foundation dealings, just like he negatively branded so many of his GOP foes. And it very well may have worked, just like it seems to have worked with “low-energy” Jeb Bush.
So it doesn’t take too much of an imagination to envision a world where Donald Trump is on the verge of winning the Democratic nomination. In fact, it may even be far easier to get your head around than our current reality.