Trump is going to body slam the GOP a lot more in 2017

Vince McMahon gets more than he bargained for when Donald Trump got physical after signing the contract for Wrestlemania XXIII's 'Hair vs Hair' match at Monday Night RAW in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 12, 2007
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Let's get one thing straight: Donald Trump won the 2016 election. Everyone else, including the Republican Party, lost. And boy, is the GOP about to learn this the hard way.

First, President-elect Trump is not going to be shy about embarrassing them. Take Tuesday's Twitter storm and Cabinet news from Trump as an example. If anyone thought Trump favored or would ignore the House Republican's move to weaken the powers of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, they thought wrong. Trump tweeted against the move, sharply criticizing it as being a bad priority compared to the more pressing need to fix health care and taxes. The House Republicans quickly responded with an emergency meeting and reversed their plans to gut that office. That was fast.


But that's not all. Trump is also not going to be shy about challenging them. Earlier Tuesday, reports came out that Trump is going to name former Reagan administration official Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Trade Representative. Sure, Lighthizer is a lifelong Republican, but his M.O. over the past decade has been to castigate his fellow Republicans for not being protectionist enough. He even wrote a 2011 op-ed in the Washington Times explaining to Republicans that President Reagan enacted protectionist policies, too — especially to save Harley-Davidson — and slapped quotas on imported steel.

"Remember that, while the general election was very close, Trump utterly gutted the GOP in the primaries. That was the real landslide of 2016 and it sends the message that he doesn't really need much from the Republican Party — especially its ideology — to succeed."

That thinking doesn't sit well with conservative thought leaders who still hold sway with a lot of Republicans. The leading critic of Trump's trade rhetoric and expected policies is Mark Levin, another former Reagan administration official, who has a nationally syndicated radio talk-show. Levin regularly slams Trump on free trade with his unique combination of historic and legal knowledge mixed with palpable anger. And he and many other conservative free traders sure don't like the other tweets Trump sent out Tuesday slamming General Motors for making some cars in Mexico that it ships backs to dealers in the U.S. tax free.

It's become very clear that Trump will continue to make a lot of conservative Republicans very mad in 2017. And here's why he can get away with it: It's not just that Trump won the election and he's going to be the president. Remember that, while the general election was very close, Trump utterly gutted the GOP in the primaries. That was the real landslide of 2016 and it sends the message that he doesn't really need much from the Republican Party — especially its ideology — to succeed. Trump needed and probably still needs the official Republican label after his name, but that's about it.

Based on what the GOP House members did on Monday to gut the independent ethics office and the way Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell carries himself, they still haven't gotten the memo. House Speaker Paul Ryan seems closer to understanding the state of things, but even he isn't completely on board with the new realities. Maybe after Trump proceeds with more protectionist policies or pushes for big infrastructure deficit spending projects they'll start to come out of denial. But Trump was a candidate and is going to be a president who likes fighting lots of battles all the time, and he's really not going to care much about which side he's fighting.


Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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