Trump’s Forgotten Antecedents

Morry Taylor — The Trumpy Businessman

Tom Tancredo — The Immigration Hardliner

Duncan L. Hunter — The Trade Warrior

Mike Huckabee — The GOPer who Addressed Inequality

Mike Huckabee, while in the Evangelical camp of the Republican Party, brought some of Trump’s working-class focus into the GOP in 2008 and tried again in 2016, earning cautious praise from unlikely left-leaning sources. Importantly, Huckabee talked about confronting the “Washington to Wall Street power axis” and criticized rising income inequality, leading journalist Michael Scherer to conclude that “if you close your eyes, you would think a Democrat was speaking —Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton turned Southern Baptist”. Most Republicans avoid the topic of inequality altogether, but it’s more and more difficult to cast aside such a prominent issue. As Governor, he raised taxes, drawing the ire of groups like the Club for Growth, and drew primary endorsements from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, their first GOP Presidential endorsement in 100 years.

Rick Santorum — Cultural Signalling

In 2012, Rick Santorum mounted a surprisingly strong challenge to frontrunner Mitt Romney on an economic populist, socially conservative message. He addressed the loss of manufacturing jobs while Romney had a record of investing in outsourcing. He attacked Mitt Romney for being in favor of the bank bailouts in 2008. This was a working-class tone, notable in a party normally attuned more to the elite. Even David Brooks noticed, stating that Santorum seemed to attack supply-siders. Regrettably, Santorum’s economic platform was still mostly in line with the libertarian-individualistic right, with tax policies likely to help the richest few and support for cutting spending. However, Santorum’s 2012 campaign conveyed a cultural populism that Donald Trump later successfully wielded. Beyond policy, signaling proved important. Santorum sponsored a NASCAR driver and spent much time discussing his grandfather, a coal miner. A few years later, he stated that the GOP’s future aligned more with Sam’s Club shoppers and less with Whole Foods-shopping craft beer drinkers.


Donald Trump isn’t new and his ideological imprint on the Republican Party isn’t vanishing anytime soon. The undercurrents that made his rise possible were present in various other GOP Presidential campaigns over the past 25 years, the less-known of which I’ve covered here. Taylor, Tancredo, Hunter, Huckabee, and Santorum all played a part in constructing what we know today as Trumpism, both in style and substance.



Moderate Communitarian politics. Catholic. 1st Gen Portuguese-American born and raised in Kansas. Now a law student in Pennsylvania.

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Andrew Figueiredo

Andrew Figueiredo

Moderate Communitarian politics. Catholic. 1st Gen Portuguese-American born and raised in Kansas. Now a law student in Pennsylvania.