WASHINGTON, DC – Much attention in the United States and elsewhere is focused on whether US presidential candidate Donald Trump will shift away from the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-rational rhetoric that carried him to the Republican Party nomination. Some of his advisers are reportedly recommending that he move toward “mainstream” Republican positions, such as those held by the leadership of the House of Representatives.
It is entirely possible that Trump will follow their counsel. After all, his current positions are not generating enough support to make victory in November likely (the widely cited FiveThirtyEight website puts his odds at around 20%). And Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, served in the House from 2000 to 2012 and has close ties to Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders.
The Republican establishment, deeply divided over Trump’s candidacy, certainly hopes for such a shift. But, if it comes about, no one should mistake it for a move toward more “moderate” positions. In any other year, the House Republicans would be regarded as irresponsible extremists.
To see this, consider the record from a recent hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Representative Jason Chaffetz. The ostensible focus of the hearing was the policies of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), particularly with regard to the creation of new banks. As the hearing unfolded, however, it became clear that most Republican members were intent on broad-ranging deregulation of finance – rolling back all of the reforms put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. (I testified at the hearing at the invitation of House Democrats.)