More Republicans will turn against Donald Trump and his politics of populism, a GOP senator and leading critic of the president has predicted, as the Guardian surveys the conservative landscape 200 days into the Trump presidency.
Jeff Flake of Arizona, among 17 conservative politicians, activists, officials and pundits interviewed over two months, revealed that while the president has given rightwing fringe groups a seat at the table, his alliance with his own party remains highly precarious.
“More of us will say, where does this lead, where are we and what happens when we get off this sugar high of populism?” said Flake, who believes the Republican party abandoned its core principles and struck “a Faustian bargain” by embracing Trump in last year’s election.
“What can we do on trade when supply chains get sent around us? Those have long-term ramifications,” added the senator. “This is not something that we can flirt with for four years and then quickly snap back, so I do think there needs to be more pushback.”
Trump, a former Democrat with no political experience, ran as an antiestablishment candidate effectively staging a hostile takeover of the Republican party. Indeed in July 2015 former Texas governor Rick Perry declared: “Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.” Perry is now Trump’s energy secretary.
But after months of criticism that they are too passive, lately congressional Republicans have flexed their muscles over threats from the White House directed at Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Trump and Russia, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, as well as passing fresh sanctions against Moscow that Trump reluctantly was obliged to sign.
In addition, high-profile Republicans at various levels of government have been accused of mounting “shadow campaigns” for 2020 – including Mike Pence, the vice president, who issued a statement on Sunday denouncing a New York Times report about his alleged positioning for a post-Trump era as “disgraceful and offensive”.
Flake, whose new book, Conscience of a Conservative argues that conservatism has been compromised by “nationalism, populism, xenophobia, extreme partisanship, even celebrity”, believes…