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Column: What too many Republicans still don't understand about Donald Trump's agenda

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Column: What too many Republicans still don't understand about Donald Trump's agenda

Donald Trump isn’t normally thought of as a consensus-builder, but in one sense that’s exactly what he is. Many of Trump’s most ardent fans and foes alike believe he is the leader of a political movement with a clear and defined set of principles and goals. They disagree only on whether that agenda is good or bad.

The tendency to cast Trump as a tool of the ideological right serves the purposes of both sides. The right needs to believe Trump is a warrior for its causes to justify its support for him, and the left wants to believe the same to justify its opposition.

I’ll concede that this is not an outlandish view. It’s certainly how he ran in 2016, when he promised in many respects to be an instrument of the Republican base’s will. He even quite brilliantly agreed to a list of potential Supreme Court appointments compiled by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society to reassure skeptical conservatives that he would be their servant. And since he left office, Trump has frequently told right-wing groups that he remains their loyal champion. So maybe you can’t blame people for believing him.

Or maybe you can. While the notion that Trump is an ideological conservative isn’t outlandish, it is outdated. It’s certainly true that if Trump is reelected, he will do things that please the GOP and conservatives. But let’s not get the causality backward: His supporters will like what he does — and his enemies will hate it — because Trump did it. They’ll look up the arguments later.

Right-wing apologists’ attempt to construct an intellectually consistent Trumpism is one of the oldest stories of the Trump era. And time and again, Trump has beclowned them for it.

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Consider the recent humiliation of Kevin Roberts, the Heritage Foundation’s president. Roberts has worked tirelessly to turn the storied think tank into the ideological avant-garde of Trumpism. Along with a who’s-who of former Trump administration officials and conservative groups, he launched Project 2025 as both a playbook for another Trump term and a how-to manual for the true believers the group is screening to staff the administration.

Appearing on MAGA goon Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast last week, Roberts told a guest host (Bannon being busy serving a stint in federal prison) that he is leading a “second American revolution” that will “remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.” This typically dopey radical posturing invited a wave of legitimate criticism, annoying Trump.

“I know nothing about Project 2025,” the former president declared on Truth Social. “I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.”

Never mind that this is a demonstrably audacious lie: Project 2025 has enough ties to Trump that it might as well rent space at Mar-a-Lago. The point is that Trump rewarded Roberts for his efforts by publicly disavowing them.

Or consider the Trump campaign’s success in softening the GOP platform’s position on abortion. For years, dedicated opponents of abortion rights rationalized their support for Trump with the conviction that he would champion their cause. Their gamble paid off with the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade. But now abortion is a political problem for Trump, so he has changed his position again. The onetime proponent of punishing women who obtain abortions and banning the procedure across the country says that the issue should be left entirely to the states and that the abortion pill mifepristone should remain legal nationwide.

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The leading contenders to serve as Trump’s running mate responded by changing their positions too. “I think our platform has to reflect our nominee,” longtime antiabortion Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida explained over the weekend. It’s a tactically defensible position, but it illuminates the absurdity of claiming the party supports Trump because he reflects the party. The only platform Trump cares about is whichever one he happens to be standing on.

Trump has always wanted the party to be his pool of Narcissus, reflecting his personal glory and dominance. That’s why he supported candidates who hewed to his lie that the 2020 election was stolen, preferring that the party lose with loyalists than win with truth-tellers. That’s why he no longer cares about the Federalist Society, which produced judges who rejected his false election claims. Oh, and last month, the guy who infamously called for a ban on Muslim immigration said he wants to give every foreign-born graduate of a U.S. college a green card.

The problem with the search for an intellectually serious Trumpism is that Trump has no use for ideas except as expedients of his ambition. The instrumentalism that paved the way for Trump sought to make him the right’s tool. Instead, it made a lot of right-wingers look like tools.

@JonahDispatch

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Biden tells Michigan crowd he's 'not going anywhere' amid chants of 'don't you quit'

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Biden tells Michigan crowd he's 'not going anywhere' amid chants of 'don't you quit'

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President Biden left no ambiguity about his intentions to stay in the 2024 election during a Michigan rally on Friday.

Speaking in Detroit to a crowd that Democrats say passed 2,000 attendees, Biden characterized himself as a people’s champion under siege by elitist powers in Washington D.C.

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“I’m the nominee of this party because 14 million Democrats like you voted for me in the primaries,” Biden told the crowd. 

‘UNDERDOG’ BIDEN STILL HAS TIME TO TURN CAMPAIGN AROUND BEFORE THE ELECTION, DEMOCRAT STRATEGISTS SAY

Biden speaks to the crowd during a campaign event in Detroit, Michigan. The president left no ambiguity on whether he intended to continue his 2024 re-election campaign. (Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

He continued, “You made me the nominee, no one else. Not the press, not the pundits, not the insiders, not donors — you the voters. You decided, no one else, and I’m not going anywhere.”

The Detroit crowd offered multiple coordinated cheers in support of Biden, including “Don’t you quit” and “We’ve got your back.”

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Biden faces increased calls to step down as the Democratic nominee following his performance at the first presidential debate, however strategists with knowledge of presidential campaigns say irreversible damage has not been done to his re-election efforts.

“You’ve probably noticed a lot of speculation lately. What’s Joe Biden going to do? Is he going to stay in the race? Is he going to drop out?” Biden shouted during the rally. “Here’s my answer — I am running, and we’re going to win.”

DEMOCRATIC OFFICIALS ADMIT HAVING BIDEN CONCERNS AT JUNETEEENTH CONCERT: ‘HE SEEMED ALTERED’

Biden Detroit Rally

Supporters attend the campaign rally held by Biden at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan. (Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Democrats are nervous as the calendar marches towards August, when the national convention will be held to confirm the party’s nominee.

Biden has stated on several occasions that he will not be stepping down as the nominee, but continues to face pressure from members within his own party to consider dropping out of the 2024 race.

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“The president has been clear — he’s the elected nominee, and he is not budging from that position unless god himself intervenes,” Democrat strategist Mark Penn told Fox News Digital when asked about the state of Biden’s campaign.

Biden Detroit Rally

Biden has defied a chorus of Democratic lawmakers and media pundits that have called for his resignation from the 2024 presidential race. Whether the president decides to step down becomes increasingly relevant as the Democratic National Convention draws nearer in August. (Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“Right now, Donald Trump is clearly leading, but it’s nowhere near double digits, so the race remains within the ability of a few percent of switching voters to change the outcome and, as events like the debate show, there’s plenty of game-changing possibilities.”

Reports have also surfaced that former President Barack Obama has been working “behind the scenes” to force Biden out of the race. Multiple media outlets reported Thursday morning on Obama’s alleged efforts, including Politico, which stated that the former president had been given a “heads-up” by Clooney about his guest essay.

A source close to Obama declined to comment on the reports but pointed Fox News Digital to the former president’s statements in support of Biden, both at the Los Angeles fundraiser that became the subject of Clooney’s op-ed and following the debate.

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Fox News Digital’s Aubrie Spady contributed to this report.

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Proposed GOP platform silent on same-sex marriage

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Proposed GOP platform silent on same-sex marriage

Defining marriage as only between one man and one woman — a bedrock of the GOP platform for decades — is notably absent from a proposal backed by former President Trump that will be voted on next week at the Republican National Convention.

It’s a dramatic change for a party that has long used opposition to same-sex marriage to rally social conservatives. It also reflects broader changing societal views about such relationships — as well as how much Trump has changed the GOP.

The platform language is by no means a full-throated defense of same-sex marriage or gay rights. In fact, many queer rights organizations condemned the platform as particularly dangerous for transgender people and youth and the party as virulently anti-LGBTQ+.

“Who cares what they put in the party platform? What matters is the actions taken,” said Rep. Robert Garcia, an openly gay member of Congress from Long Beach. “If you look at the House, the amount of anti-LGBTQ legislation is at historic levels.”

Still, the removal of same-sex marriage from the platform was a victory LGBTQ+ Republicans have sought for years.

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“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans. It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages,” said Charles Moran, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP group founded in California in 1977 that advocates for gay rights and faces varying degrees of acceptance, and opposition, in the party.

“This is a pro-family platform, but it provides a place for our families too,” said Moran, an RNC delegate from San Pedro.

The data and the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion: Every child deserves a married mom and dad

— 2016 Republican Party platform

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Democrats argue that the platform change was a meaningless move designed to paper over Republicans’ concerted efforts to reduce rights for gay, lesbian and trans Americans.

Garcia, citing initiatives in Congress and state legislatures, said Republicans have gone from attacking education and books that teach gay history, “to attacking health education, to attacking something as simple as pride celebrations, obviously attacking trans families and rolling back protections on everything from workplace rights to just the active dehumanization of people.”

The proposed Republican platform mentions marriage just once, in a paragraph about families: “Republicans will promote a Culture that values the Sanctity of Marriage, the blessings of childhood, the foundational role of families, and supports working parents.”

The 2016 platform — the last one adopted by the RNC — contains nearly two dozen references to marriage.

“The data and the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion: Every child deserves a married mom and dad,” the platform reads. It also condemned the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

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The 2024 platform, approved by a party committee Monday, is just 16 pages, significantly shorter than prior ones. Notably, it scrapped previous language opposing abortion in the aftermath of Roe vs. Wade being overturned. Though it says, “We proudly stand for families and Life,” it also called for the matter to be decided by the states. This policy shift has received the lion’s share of attention and criticism from conservatives.

However, some Republicans have also lamented the lack of language on marriage, such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and the National Assn. of Christian Lawmakers.

“When we heard there was an organized effort to whitewash the GOP platform on the issues of life and marriage, we could hardly believe it,” said South Carolina state Rep. John R. McCravy III, who also serves as the Palmetto state’s chair of the association, in a statement before the platform committee vote.

He added, “I sincerely pray that RNC delegates will not surrender on these important principles.”

The matter will be voted on next Monday, the opening day of the convention in Milwaukee. But given Trump’s backing of the proposal, it’s almost certain to pass.

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Sasha Issenberg, the author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage,” said Trump’s views are not surprising.

“The party platform is a political document. This is an area where Trump has been incredibly pragmatic,” said Issenberg, who teaches political science at UCLA.

Same-sex marriage does not divide voters the way it did 20 years ago, Issenberg said, adding that to “state the obvious,” Trump is “not a guy who is terribly moralistic about the sanctity of marriage or a real prude on sexual issues.”

In the past, the GOP’s opposition to same-sex marriage was an effective way to win votes. Such was the case in 2004, when Gavin Newsom, then mayor of San Francisco, allowed the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. A handful of officials in other local jurisdictions did the same.

Then-President George W. Bush, who was running for reelection, pounced on the issue, framing those actions as “lawlessness,” Issenberg said.

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Give me a break. Americans won’t be fooled.

— Gov. Gavin Newsom on GOP’s 2024 platform

State constitutional amendments to prohibit same-sex marriage were placed on the ballots of more than a dozen states, and some Democrats partly blamed Newsom’s actions for Democrat John Kerry’s loss to Bush.

Newsom, now governor of California, was dismissive of the GOP platform change.

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“Give me a break,” he said. “Americans won’t be fooled. This is nothing more than an election year stunt to hide their anti-freedom agenda.”

Years ago, Newsom was an outlier among Democrats on LGBTQ+ issues. His party’s platforms did not explicitly call for same-sex marriage rights two decades ago, saying the matter should be left to the states. (The 2004 platform did, however, oppose Bush’s effort to promote a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.)

In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, nearly every Democratic candidate, including then-Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, opposed same-sex marriage.

By the 2012 campaign, Obama and Biden expressed their support for same-sex marriage, a reflection of dramatically changing attitudes nationwide.

In 1996, 27% of Americans believed same-sex marriages should be recognized as valid, according to a Gallup poll. Earlier this year, that number in the same poll had increased to 69%.

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Issues such as gender-affirming care and trans athletes remain far more controversial among voters, which partly explains Republican dichotomy on LGBTQ+ issues, Issenberg said.

Indeed, the proposed platform pledges to ban men from playing in women’s sports, not allow taxpayer funds to be spent on gender-affirming surgery — which the platform calls “sex-change surgeries” — and other prohibitions aimed at the trans community.

Still, the GOP has shown signs of being more accepting of people who are not heterosexual. In 2016, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel made history when he said from the podium of the Republican National Convention that he is gay. (Openly gay men previously spoke at conventions but did not mention their sexuality.)

As president, Trump named Richard Grenell as U.S. ambassador to Germany and then as acting director of national intelligence. Grenell, who did not respond to a request for comment, was the highest-ranking openly gay member of a GOP White House administration.

Grenell, the RNC delegate from Manhattan Beach, is expected to speak at the convention on Wednesday, and is likely to hold a high-ranking post in a second Trump administration.

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Members of the Trump family have also been supportive of Log Cabin, notably the former president’s wife, Melania. The former first lady has headlined fundraisers for the group, including events at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump residence in Florida, and Trump Tower in New York City.

Two events in New York City raised $1.4 million the same day that the platform committee approved the new platform.

“It is important that we do not allow society to define us based on superficial characteristics, but rather focus on the common values that bind us as Americans,” she said, according to a transcript of excerpts of her remarks at a second event. “The Log Cabin Republicans have been instrumental in championing this message, and I am proud to stand alongside you.”

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Yearslong tensions boil over as ex-Obama staffers gang up on Biden: 'Clooney was exactly right'

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Yearslong tensions boil over as ex-Obama staffers gang up on Biden: 'Clooney was exactly right'

The criticism from ex-Obama staffers aimed at President Biden, including calls for him to exit the 2024 presidential race, serve as a stark reminder of the well-known tensions between the former White House duo that go back nearly two decades.

The often testy relationship between Biden and Obama reportedly began shortly after the latter’s election to the Senate in 2004, when both men served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Obama, according to The New York Times, wasn’t fond of Biden’s often-long-winded speeches to the point where, on one occasion, he passed a note to a colleague reading, “Shoot. Me. Now.”

The two eventually found themselves facing off for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, where Biden, while announcing his campaign, controversially referred to Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

BIDEN, HARRIS DEFY CRITICS BY LAUNCHING FULL OFFENSIVE AIMED AT TYING TRUMP TO PROJECT 2025

Former President Obama and President Biden. (Getty Images)

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The intense blowback from the comment led to an apology from Biden, and Obama telling reporters, “I have no problem with Joe Biden.” 

Biden eventually dropped out of the race after a dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses, but was subsequently picked by Obama to be his running mate. The two ultimately defeated Republican nominees John McCain and Sarah Palin.

The first few months of their administration reportedly saw frequent disagreements between the two, including a clash over Obama publicly diminishing Biden while speaking to reporters — which he later agreed with an upset Biden to avoid doing — and eye rolls from the former while the latter spoke during meetings.

Biden was reportedly frustrated with Obama’s cautious decision-making process, and disagreed with him on a number of issues, including sending more troops to Afghanistan at the request of military leadership.

Despite the disagreements, the two eventually developed a close partnership, and even friendship, before Obama reportedly dismissed a suggestion by close advisers to replace Biden in the 2012 re-election campaign with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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GROWING LIST OF OBAMA ALLIES, FORMER ADVISERS LOOK TO SINK BIDEN RE-ELECTION BID

Obama and Biden

President Obama smiles alongside Vice President Biden before signing healthcare insurance reform legislation during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 23, 2010. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Obama was close to Biden and provided strength and support for his family in the lead up to, and following, the death of his son, Beau Biden, from a form of brain cancer, but later worked to convince his vice president not to seek the 2016 Democratic nomination in favor of Clinton.

“The president was not encouraging,” Biden later acknowledged, according to The New York Times. He never publicly expressed disappointment in Obama favoring Clinton, but did reportedly feel he would have been a stronger opponent to then-Republican nominee Donald Trump.

When Biden did eventually launch another presidential campaign in 2019, Obama decided not to endorse him, and instead opted to let the primary process play out. He did eventually offer his endorsement in August 2020 after Biden had secured the nomination.

The tension between the two, despite being friends, appeared to have gone nowhere throughout the campaign when Obama reportedly expressed doubts about Biden’s fitness for office.

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“Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f— things up,” a Democratic source recalled Obama saying on one occasion, according to Politico.

‘OBAMA BROS’ GANG UP ON BIDEN AS LONGSTANDING RUMORS OF TENSION LINGER: ‘HARD TO WATCH’

Joe Biden, Barack Obama

This White House handout photo shows President Obama and Vice President Biden in the Oval Office of the White House during the President’s Daily Economic Briefing on July 30, 2009. (Pete Souza/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden has often compared himself to Obama throughout his presidency, even to the point of frequently using the phrase, “Obama would be jealous,” when talking about an accomplishment, according to a report from Axios earlier this year.

Biden’s disappointing showing in the first presidential debate last month drove many former Obama advisers and allies to call for his exit from the race, despite the former president initially defending him. Those calls included former adviser Jon Favreau, widely known as one of the “Obama bros” during his time at the White House.

Favreau, who attended the same Los Angeles fundraiser that actor George Clooney referenced in his damaging New York Times guest essay calling on Biden to drop out of the presidential race, said during an appearance on CNN earlier this week that “Clooney was exactly right.”

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Clooney wrote in his guest essay that the Biden who showed up at the fundraiser was “not the Joe ‘big F-ing deal’ Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”

Ex-Obama adviser David Axelrod has also repeatedly criticized Biden, saying Friday while appearing on CNN that Biden “really needs a royal flush to win this race” against former President Trump.

“There are certain immutable facts of life,” Axelrod said in a separate CNN interview while discussing Biden’s age and leadership. “Those were painfully obvious on that debate stage. The president just … hasn’t come to grips with it. He’s not winning this race.”

President Biden and political strategist David Axelrod split image

Ex-Obama adviser David Axelrod, right, criticized President Biden’s debate performance and ABC News interview. (AP Photo / Getty Images)

Jon Favreau, Joe Biden, George Clooney split

From left: former Obama adviser Jon Favreau, President Biden and actor George Clooney. (Getty Images)

Reports have also surfaced that Obama has been working “behind the scenes” to force Biden out of the race. Multiple media outlets reported Thursday morning on Obama’s alleged efforts, including Politico, which stated that the former president had been given a “heads-up” by Clooney about his guest essay.

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A source close to Obama declined to comment on the reports but pointed Fox News Digital to the former president’s statements in support of Biden, both at the Los Angeles fundraiser that became the subject of Clooney’s op-ed and following the debate.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday responded to a recent claim by Trump that Obama “never respected” Biden throughout their time in office. She said Biden and Obama have “a close relationship,” but couldn’t speak to the details of any recent call or conversation between the two.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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