Is Donald Trump really a Republican?

That sounds like an odd question to ask of the presumptive presidential nominee of the party, but Mr Trump isn’t your typical conservative.

Mr Trump’s Republican rivals have long called him a “New York liberal” who can’t be trusted to uphold their Republican values.

“I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard bearer that bears our standards.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday, explaining why he is withholding his support. Jeb Bush said he would back “principled conservatives” rather than Mr Trump.

Mr Trump describes himself as a “commonsense conservative” and the fact that his message has earned him millions of Republican votes suggests a fracture between the grassroots and leadership.

Here are five key issues upon which the billionaire businessman diverges from Republican orthodoxy as represented by leaders like Mr Ryan and presidents of the past.


A US Border Patrol officer body searches an undocumented immigrant after he illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico borderImage copyrightGetty Images

Mainstream Republicans: Traditionally Republicans have favoured increased immigration in keeping with the party’s close relationship with the business community. Both President Ronald Reagan and President George HW Bush extended amnesty to millions of undocumented workers while in office. Mainstream Republican figures such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio initially favoured similar immigration reforms that would have provided a “path to citizenship”, but those efforts stopped after meeting resistance from more conservative members of Congress.

Trump: Views on immigration have shifted rightward across the Republican Party in recent years, but Mr Trump’s views are some of the most extreme in American politics. He has:

  • advocated deporting nearly 11 million undocumented workers
  • called for a border wall to be built between the US and Mexico
  • said he would force Mexico to pay for the wall by threatening to ban Mexicans in the US from sending remittances home

Most Republicans oppose mass deportations. While they support increased border security, they do not advocate a border wall paid for by the Mexican government.


Protesters demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court on the morning that the court took up a major abortion case focusing on whether a Texas law that imposes strict regulations on abortion doctors and clinic buildingsImage copyrightReuters

Mainstream Republicans: Almost all Republicans oppose abortion. In recent years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have supported a wave of regulations that have limited access to abortions – new laws that have been met with legal challenges. The Supreme Court will likely decide the fate of these regulations, making the recent vacancy on the high court a critical issue for social conservatives. Social conservatives have also aggressively targeted Planned Parenthood. Although the group is one of the leading abortion providers in the US, the health care organisation also provides cancer screenings, contraception and screening and treatment for sexual transmitted diseases. It receives federal funds for those services, while regulations prohibit federal funds for abortions. Conservatives have sought to cut off its federal funding to weaken the organisation.

Trump: While Mr Trump’s stance is comparable to many Republicans, his consistency is the issue. In the course of a week earlier this year, Mr Trump changed his position on abortion at least five times, alarming many social conservatives. This flexibility has convinced many social conservatives that Mr Trump cannot be trusted to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would oppose abortion rights. He has also publically praised the work of Planned Parenthood, saying their non-abortion services should receive federal funding. The organisation has done “very good work for millions of women,” Mr Trump said.

International trade

Containers are offloaded from a ship at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, CaliforniaImage copyrightAFP

Mainstream Republicans: Republicans have long supported trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which increased trade between Canada, the US and Mexico in the 1990s. Many Republicans in the Congress currently support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pending trade agreement between the US and many Pacific Rim countries. Supporters of these agreements say the pacts increase economic growth and enhance American competitiveness in the global market.

Trump: Mr Trump has aggressively criticised international trade agreements, particularly Nafta, saying the pacts have harmed the US manufacturing sector and cost millions of US jobs. He has pointed to the country’s massive trade deficit with China, saying tariffs are needed to address the imbalance. Most Republicans oppose tariffs, saying they would spark a trade war that would damage the economy.

Are Trump and Sanders right about trade?

Foreign policy

soldier of the Polish Army sits in a tank as a NATO flag flies behind during the NATO Noble Jump military exercisesImage copyrightGetty Images

Mainstream Republicans: Republicans have long supported a muscular foreign policy and have not shied away from supporting the use of military force aboard. While generally opposed to government spending, Republicans make a key exception for defence spending, allowing the US military to maintain scores of bases overseas and protect the interests of its allies in Europe and the Pacific.

Trump: Mr Trump has been a vocal critic of the Iraq War and says the US need not be the world’s policeman. While Mr Trump has supported strengthening the military, he says he would do so by extracting concessions from allies. He has repeatedly said the US should rethink its commitments to Nato, saying other member countries do not pay their fair share of the organisation’s budget. He has also floated an idea that South Korea and Japan could arm themselves with nuclear weapons – eliminating the need for US protection.

Trump’s foreign policy assessed by experts

Social services

Bob Ducharme participates displays a sign during a demonstration in front of the Social Security Administration officeImage copyrightGetty Images

Mainstream Republicans: A key faction of the Republican Party is made of fiscal conservatives who view the federal deficit as a major long-term problem for the country.


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