For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable.
And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.
Among people who said they voted for Trump in the general election, 35 percent had household incomes under $50,000 per year (the figure was also 35 percent among non-Hispanic whites), almost exactly the percentage in NBC’s March 2016 survey. Trump’s voters weren’t overwhelmingly poor. In the general election, like the primary, about two thirds of Trump supporters came from the better-off half of the economy.
This brought to mind comments sent to James Fallows by Joseph Britt, a Wisconsin Republican:
The Republican Party supported a war hero and veteran legislator for President in 2008. It backed a legitimate businessman and successful governor in 2012. This year, it fell in behind Trump. About as many Republicans voted for Trump as for Romney four years earlier. The great majority of these were not distressed working-class voters. They weren’t threatened by minorities or by globalization. They were — are — people who have lived easy lives, never wanting for anything save the most garish accoutrements of great wealth.
They knew Donald Trump was ignorant and dishonest, and it didn’t matter to them. They knew he was a sex predator who fathered children by various women, and it didn’t matter. Cheating on his taxes, cheating on his wives, consumer fraud, the bogus charity, the sponsorship of the Russian intelligence services, the anti-Semitic associates, cheating contractors who had done work for him, the picking on individuals before massive rallies, the insufferable racism, the continual running down of America — none of that mattered.
No, the only thing that mattered to Republicans of means once Trump was nominated by the Republican Party was that he had been nominated by the Republican Party. Loyalty to party took precedence over loyalty to American democracy, its mission, and traditions. What counted — all that counted — was that Trump had been chosen to lead Our Team.
What a pathetic thing is decadence. Millions of Republicans as comfortable and secure as any people who have ever lived, who owe everything to the historic miracle that is the United States, chose to go along with a presidential candidacy shot through with moral degeneracy and contempt for the public good. They had other choices in the primaries; they were warned by their own former leaders what Trump represented. They voted for him anyway, hoping to give their team a win in the game, the shallow entertainment that is all they think of politics.
The tax cuts for the wealthy frequently advocated by Republican politicians are viewed unfavorably by many voters, polls show. The Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan group that conducts public-opinion surveys, found that 57 percent of Americans nationally, including over a third of Republicans, support increasing taxes on those earning at least $250,000 a year. By contrast, Brownback’s policies reduced them drastically.
Yet Dan Cox, the institute’s research director, said that Brownback’s defeat did not augur more victories for Republicans pursuing more moderate economic policies. He said Republican policymakers and their advisers around the country are likely to view the example of Kansas as a failure of implementation, rather than one of principle, and they will argue that Kansas’s experiment would have succeeded had the legislature reduced spending even more.
As the saying goes, conservatism never fails, it is only failed.
If the controversy over the firing of James Comey, the F.B.I. director, has done anything, it has confirmed my decision on Nov. 9 to leave the Republican Party after a lifetime as a loyal member.
While the president has the authority to fire the F.B.I. director, to do so under these circumstances and for these reasons is a gross violation of the trust citizens place in the president to ensure that the laws “be faithfully executed.” If this is not a prima facie case of obstruction of justice — an impeachable offense — it’s hard to know what is.
Republicans would understand this and say so if these actions were taken by President Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to President Trump, they have checked their principles at the Oval Office door.
Are there even three principled Republicans left who will put their devotion to the Republic above their fealty to the Republican Party?
Signs point to no. If Trump bragging about serial sexual assault wasn’t enough to keep them from supporting him, legal abuses of power seem unlikely to do so.
Sixty-eight percent of white working-class voters said the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. And nearly half agreed with the statement, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”
Nearly two-thirds of the white working class say American culture has gotten worse since the 1950s. Sixty-eight percent say the U.S. is in danger of losing its identity, and 62 percent say America’s growing number of immigrants threaten the country’s culture. More than half say discrimination against whites has become just as problematic as discrimination against minorities.
Yep, it’s hard out there for us white people. One time, there was a black guy and he was president.
But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.
In many ways anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast.
A desire for transgression is all that’s left of the American right.
The white families sent their children to college with their home equities; they were able to take care of their parents in old age and not depend on their children. They’re able to bequeath wealth to their children. None of those advantages accrued to African-Americans, who for the most part were prohibited from buying homes in those suburbs.
I remember Bill O’Reilly arguing with Jon Stewart about how African Americans just need to make better choices to get ahead in the world. He grew up in Levittown.
The second [mirage] is that Trumpcare is a health-care bill. It’s not. It’s a trillion dollar tax cut for the top 2 percent that’s paid for with a trillion dollars of health-care cuts for the poor and middle class. Or, as Trump would call it, “something terrific.” He just left out that that’s only for people making $200,000 or more.
Trump may be the first president whose plunge to 40 percent approval was marked by stories about the voters who still loved him. And Clinton may be the only politician who can talk about the need for rural broadband — at this point, an almost banal priority of rural politicians — and be accused of snobbery.
Messaging isn’t the same thing as governing. Activity doesn’t always reflect accomplishment. But they often look similar from a distance, and Trump’s presidency so far amounts to a bet that most of the public can’t tell the difference.