Trump Is Evolving, Not Flip-Flopping


The U.S. might be the only nation whose leaders are embarrassed to pursue the interests of their own country.

Seal the borders so that, in the age of terrorism, the nation's intelligence agencies can keep an eye on everyone entering and leaving the country? That's racist. Admit that the U.S. policy of military intervention in the Middle East is at least partly driven by economic self-interest and attempts to safeguard one of the most valuable natural resources on the planet? Selfish and imperialistic.

Acknowledge trade deficits that seriously harm the U.S. economy? Parsimonious and self-interested. Acknowledge that Islamic terrorism spawns from Islamic extremism, and not Buddhism, Zoroastrianism or Pastafarianism? Intolerant and xenophobic.

As you read this, Hungary continues work on its "Great Wall of Europe," a massive, 280-mile long razor wire fence designed with one purpose -- to keep refugees out. In France, miles of barbed wire fence seal off the English Channel's coastline, so refugees can't hitch rides on vessels crossing the water or use small craft to reach the U.K. To the south, Europe has effectively sealed off routes from Greece and Turkey, stranding refugees and keeping them from making their way toward the continent's more prosperous -- and desirable -- countries. And in Mexico, the Federales patrol the country's southern border, violently rebuffing Central America's poor who try to make their way north in search of a better life.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban doesn't feel the need to apologize for prioritizing the interests of his country. Leaders of old-world European countries certainly aren't hand-wringing or begging pardon for forcing the lion's share of the refugee burden on neighbors with fewer resources. And while the Mexican government prints handy guides to help its citizens safely cross the U.S. border illegally, no quarter is given to the poor who risk their lives to trek across the country's southern border.

By just about every measure, the U.S. is more generous, more welcoming and more accommodating than any other nation on this planet, and yet we have a president whose first priority upon assuming office in 2008 was going on a world tour and apologizing for not being generous or accommodating enough.

When you look at things this way, it's easy to understand why Donald Trump has enjoyed unprecedented success as a GOP primary candidate, and why his campaign, previously derided as a joke, resonates with working- and middle-class Americans.

And yet some people still don't get it.

Among them is Vox's Dara Lind, who marvels at how Trump has "managed to stumble onto a constituency." As the presumptive Republican nominee turns his attention toward the general election -- and the task of wooing independent voters -- Trump has softened some of his rhetoric, as every presidential candidate does in every presidential election during the transition from primary to general.

Critics can find many things wrong with Trump, but they've hit him especially hard on his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., as well as his blunt, un-presidential temperament. Those critics aren't just ideological opponents -- plenty of fellow Republicans have said their reservations about the businessman stem from the way he handles himself and his lack of tact and diplomacy.

Those are fair criticisms, and we can be sure those issues have been raised repeatedly during private meetings between Trump and GOP powerbrokers like House Speaker Paul Ryan and RNC Chairman Reince Preibus. Trump has moved to soften his rhetoric accordingly.

By taking criticism into consideration, compromising with colleagues and demonstrating a willingness to work with others, Trump has shown he isn't as tone-deaf as some make him out to be. But to Lind and other critics, it's a sign that the former reality TV star is disingenuous.

"It's not that I'm surprised Trump is lying about something ... ," Lind wrote."But I'm really surprised that one of the two things I thought he'd never back down on is one of the first things that, as he 'pivots' to the general election, he's signaling a willingness to move away from."

And yet Trump is doing what all politicians do -- packaging his message in a way that's more appealing to voters.

His rival, presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, has already done the same thing, and all signs are that she'll "pivot" for the general election like a pro. After all, it was her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who practically wrote the book on moving to the center during general elections when he campaigned as a tough-on-crime Democrat who would also reform welfare and cut taxes.

Trump could take a thousand different positions, then reverse course on every single one of them, and he still won't be half as changeable as Hillary.

If flip-flopping is the chief accusation, then perhaps we ought to look at the candidate who was against gay marriage before she was for it, who passionately supported the Iraq war until it became deeply unpopular to do so, who described urban youth as "superpredators" before she needed the black vote, and who worked to viciously discredit her husband's accusers before she told audiences that sexual assault victims "have the right to be believed." This is the candidate who described President Barack Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership as "the gold standard" in trade agreements before declaring it bad for the middle class, and who can sound like a Goldman Sachs managing partner when addressing Wall Street, then rail against big business in front of a progressive audience without blinking an eye. This candidate seemingly never takes a position until internal polling and research indicates it will be a popular one with voters. Thus the polls that find the majority of voters -- Democrats included -- do not view her as an honest candidate.

But that's the way the game is played. And if General Election Trump sounds a bit different from Primary Trump, Rile-The-Base Trump, well, he's just playing the same game Clinton's been playing for years.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Vox, Express, Real Clear Politics, Politifact, Fusion, The New York Times / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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