Donald Trump is leading in the Republican primary polls, but he hasn’t ruled out running as an independent. Now, he says, “I identify with some things as a Democrat.”
That’s the latest sound-bite in a month of political news coverage dedicated to Trump’s campaign for president.
The GOP has accused Trump of being more liberal-leaning than he portrays, donating to multiple Hillary Clinton campaigns and dodging the draft during the Vietnam War.
His latest comments came after CNN resurfaced a clip it had of him telling Wolf Blitzer “In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat” in 2004. When asked about that 2004 statement, Trump directed his comments primarily at the Bush family.
“When the economy crashed so horribly under (former President) George Bush because of mistakes they made having to do with banking and lots of other things, I don’t think the Democrats would have done that,” Trump said, according to the Hill. “Now, I see it both ways, but I hated what I was watching in the last two years of George Bush, because it was a bubble that was waiting to explode. What they were doing was a death wish, and I saw that. I’ve seen things done by Republicans that are not good and are not smart, and I would not do that.”
His attack on Bush also commends the economic policies of the Democratic Party, demonstrating that Trump’s willing to admit he hasn’t always been as right-wing as he acts now.
It’s not too difficult to dig up Trump’s more left-leaning past. In 1999, for example, CNN reported that Trump had proposed a plan to restore the national debt. He called for a one-time, 14.25 percent tax on anyone with a net worth of $10 million or more. Half the money would be deposited in the Social Security trust fund; half would be used to give tax cuts to the middle class.
“By my calculations, 1 percent of Americans, who control 90 percent of the wealth in this country, would be affected by my plan,” Trump said. “The other 99 percent of the people would get deep reductions in their federal income taxes.”
Trump was saying all of this nearly a decade before the Occupy Wall Street movement sparked a debate about income inequality in the U.S.
During his recent campaign announcement speech, Trump held up his own billion dollar net worth. He might not support such a radical tax on the wealthy now, but it's clear he's familiar with the way economic policy has affected the nation.
By threatening to run as an independent, appealing to Democratic voters, and dismissing the Bush family legacy, Trump is further distancing himself from the Washington establishment. He understands that his honesty and fearlessness are attractive qualities for voters who expect to have to choose between another Clinton or Bush.
He’s outspokenly criticized the Democratic candidate he used to support, and he’s trying to build on the momentum that led him past Bush in the polls. As much as liberals, GOP traditionalists or skeptical voters want to dismiss Trump, he understands the economy and he's capitalizing on voters' growing distrust of nationally-elected officials.
He's not a true Republican, no longer a Democrat. He's just Trump.