Donald Trump is truly an independent president

Donald Trump is truly an independent president
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George Washington was our first independent president. Since then, presidents have been chosen from one of the two major parties. Independent candidates, such as Teddy Roosevelt running as a Bull Moose and Ross Perot, have occasionally garnered a sizeable chunk of the popular vote. But none from a third party ever won a significant number of electoral votes until the very unconventional election of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJury in Jussie Smollett trial begins deliberations Pence says he'll 'evaluate' any requests from Jan. 6 panel Biden's drug overdose strategy pushes treatment for some, prison for others MORE.

Last month, I was moderating a panel discussion when my friend Mo Elleithee, executive director of the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown University and former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, suggested Trump may be our nation’s first president from a third party. Elleithee‘s argument was that Trump defeated the Republican Party before defeating the Democratic Party by eschewing traditional political ideology and tapping into a growing resentment towards our government and economic institutions. While there is certainly some merit to the argument, I think it goes further.

In 2016, voters were feeling uncharacteristically uneasy. Motivated by a combination of domestic terrorism, illegal immigration, automation of the workplace, the Great Recession, the uneven recovery, stagnant wages, the rise of China, growing income inequality, the failures of public education, overcrowded jails, deteriorating public health, and the opioid crisis, voters felt extremely vulnerable. They no longer trusted institutions to look out for them, especially those run by the establishment.

When these factors prompted Trump to enter the race, he certainly could not be considered a conventional Republican, as he changed his party registration five times over the preceding 30 years. He went on to beat a field of 16 highly qualified Republicans, including senators and the scion of a political dynasty that had produced the two most recent Republican presidents. Trump took over the Republican Party by attracting independents and crossover voters into Republican primaries and running on his own heterodox platform of unconventional positions.

Then, despite tepid and at times wavering Republican establishment support, being massively outspent on paid media, and suffering overwhelmingly negative coverage on earned media, Trump went on to beat the Democratic establishment candidate in 2016. In this victory, he owes the Republican establishment donor base nothing, and he owes the party next to nothing. His victory was not their victory, although they were and continue to be supportive of some of his policy objectives, such as tax reform, regulatory reform, judicial appointments, and the military.

Trump the independent took over an unwilling Republican Party. After 18 months, he has earned more than 90 percent approval of Republican support for his governance. In the face of their losses and Trump’s successes, the Democrats of 2018 are splintering. Trump the independent is better positioned to connect with these disenfranchised voters than the failed Democratic elites or the defeated Republican elites.

If Trump can materially improve the standard of living for the forgotten men and women, he will enjoy the support of a very broad segment of the political spectrum, much broader than any prior leader percolating up from the system of two parties. Maybe that’s what frightens his critics the most. The never-Trumpers of the Republican Party, the far left, and the mainstream media are losing their collective minds over the prospect an ascendant Trump might succeed on an unprecedented scale.

As we celebrate our independence this July 4, we can disagree on policy. Our politics have always been a rough and tumble bloodsport throughout history, so vigorous debate on the merits is fair game. But, of late, things have gotten overheated. We the American people should all try to respect each other’s differing views and honor each other’s rights to express them. We are an American family. Working out our differences as we strive to be a united people is part of what makes our country great.

How can we help but marvel at the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, who provided us with this most unique form of government with checks and balances, that protects individual liberty against government tyranny, and relies on the consent of the governed through biennial national elections? Every two years, we can fire the entire House and one-third of the Senate. Every four years we can elect a new president.

It is no accident that we elected an independent president willing to challenge the establishment orthodoxy and the unrelentingly biased mainstream media. It is the proverbial thumb in their eyes. The Constitution works, and the American people have spoken. Give us the brash independent, and let us try things a new way.

Dan Palmer is a Republican donor and conservative political strategist. He served as executive director of United We Stand, planned the potential transition of Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzInstagram chief gets bipartisan grilling over harm to teens McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China MORE, and supported the campaigns of Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyLiberals ramp up pressure on Pelosi to discipline Boebert  Cawthorn 'likely' violated rules by bringing candidate on House floor Pressley offering measure condemning Boebert MORE and Donald Trump. You can find him on Facebook @RealDanPalmer.