Less than meets the eye, perhaps.
In a recent tweet, Bloomberg View columnist Noah Smith reminded us of a Pew Research Center poll on partisanship. The poll reveals that on the core issues that seem to define Trumpism, Democrats seem to have shifted more than Republicans.
Pew focuses particular attention on three issues: redistribution, race, and immigration.
Contrary to the premise of Bannonism, GOP support for redistribution is flat in the age of Trump and has fallen since its heights during George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism. This is a point that deserves to be explored at length, but around the mid-2000s the GOP tried to pivot towards an embrace of a larger welfare state. Indeed, Ryan plan’s for Social Security privatization included higher taxes and greater spending on Social Security in the short run.
Then came the financial crisis, the election of Barack Obama, and the rise of the Tea Party. These events convinced many GOP leaders—wrongly in my view—that compassion would cost them their base. Still, Democrats have shifted further to the left than Republicans have to the right.
On racial discrimination and immigration, the age of Trump has actually seen the GOP shift slightly left. More Republicans think racial discrimination is a serious problem and that immigrants represent a source of strength. Over the same period, however, these beliefs have entrenched themselves as Democratic orthodoxy.
In the film Inherit the Wind, the Clarence Darrow character says to the William Jennings Bryan character:
All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you who have moved away—by standing still.
It is in this sense that the GOP seems to have shifted. For Democrats, the election of Obama heralded an era of rapidly changing perceptions. The GOP largely resisted this change and those Democrats, many older and midwestern, who found it hard to swallow, have switched to the GOP.
We should not confuse such changes, however, for a permanent schism. We saw this same sort of thing happen over gay marriage: a sudden shift on the left, followed by heel digging on the right, followed at last by a slow capitulation by the right.