VIEW FROM HERE--Political pundits these days offer differing advice for Democratic and Republican candidates: if you’re a Republican, talk about Trump; if you’re a Democrat, don’t talk about Trump.
Democrats running in districts that went for Trump by wide margins have been successful by not bashing him. In the recent special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, Democrat Conor Lamb eked out a victory by sticking to the middle-of-the-road and not criticizing Trump or the people who voted for him in 2016.
Democratic victories around the country, particularly in special elections at the state level, are the result of not just greater enthusiasm among Democrats, but also candidates who avoid alienating that segment of the electorate who voted for Trump but don’t want to be reminded of it.
Democrats who tailor their candidacy to a district’s constituency and understand that every vote counts have a leg up on their Republican opponents, particularly when the GOP is tied to a leader whose disapproval rating is north of 50 percent.
It’s a different story of Republican standard bearers. The party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan is now the party of Trump. In fact, it’s not so much a political party anymore as a cult of personality.
Recently, GOP Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said, “The president is, as you know—you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base—it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature… People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not.”
The polarization of the American electorate is more or less complete now. As Corker said, what counts isn’t issues—even the hot button topics of abortion, immigration and guns. It’s all about Trump. Either you’re with him or against him.
Trump’s juvenile behavior and inability or unwillingness to act presidential, let along appear to act presidential, doesn’t matter to the people who only care that he shares their common enemies—immigrants, Muslims, and anyone in government who isn’t personally loyal to Donald Trump.
Many Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate find themselves in a predicament they never anticipated. Their political careers are dependent on walking the line between actually governing and blindly following a president who changes positions from day to day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan might have a better grasp of Trump’s intentions by just watching Fox News.
More than 25 GOP House members and senators Corker of Tennessee and Flake of Arizona are retiring, many of them because they’re facing either a primary challenge from the right or the possibility of losing if, as many predict, 2018 is a “wave” year for Democrats. Some are just sick of the poisonous atmosphere in Washington.
To Donald Trump, the Republican Party is just his latest acquisition. He’ll use it as long he believes it’s in his best interest and then, as with most everything he’s owned, he’ll eventually bankrupt it and leave others to pick up the pieces.
(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and has served on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.