Congressional Republicans Have a Big Problem – Donald Trump

Recently Trump’s sparring with the establishment wing of the Republican Party has degenerated into an all out war and his attacks on leaders of his own party have prompted several prominent Republicans to respond in kind.  Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, Ohio Gov. John Kasich have been very vocal in their criticism of Trump.  George W. Bush who has stayed out of the political fray since leaving the White House, not even criticizing his democratic successor Barrack Obama, recently gave a speech denouncing fabrication, bigotry, bullying, nativism, and conspiracy theories in our politics.  He didn’t mention Trump by name, but there was no doubt who he was talking about.  However, except for Jeff Flake, what all of these Republican leaders have one thing in common.  They feel that they are in politically safe situations or they are not running for reelection anytime soon.

This morning I was watching CNN when reporter Manu Raju interviewed Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the hallways of the Capital Building. I was treated to probably the most provocative and frank appraisal of Donald Trump I have heard expressed by a Republican politician. Corker held nothing back. He said that Trump has “great difficulty with the truth”.  Corker, a big supporter of Trump before the election, also said that he and others in Congress have tried on multiple occasion to intervene and coach Trump “if you will, to the way that he conducts himself”, but to no avail. When asked if Trump is a good role model for children, Corker responded. “No, absolutely not!”  When Corker was asked if he would support Trump if he runs again the Senator replied, “No, no way!”

Bob Corker finished the interview by saying, “I think the things that are happening right now that are harmful to our nation, whether it’s the breaking down of — we are going to be doing hearings on some of the things that he purposely is breaking down — relationships we have around the world that have been useful to our nation.  But I think at the end of the day, when his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth telling, just the name-calling … I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful.”  When Trump, predictably, turned immediately to twitter to call out his latest detractor, “the incompetent head of the foreign relations committee.” the Senator was quoted as saying, “everybody sees through Trump’s bullying.”

What should be alarming to the Trump White House is that Bob Corkers, who has announced that he will not seeking reelection to his Senate seat from Tennessee, has stated several times that his opinion of Trump is shared by most of his Senate and House colleagues. This squares with what reporters who cover Congress have reported many times. Those reporters have stated repeatedly that Senators and Representatives have confided in them off of the record that they have been disturbed by Trumps egregious behavior and his lack of knowledge and assistance on legislative matters .  There is little doubt they would prefer having another Republican president in the White House. However, most of them are apparently afraid to challenge Trump in public.

Many, including me, consider the refusal of Republican politicians to speak up for the good of the country as political cowardliness, but they would rather believe that they just aren’t being stupid. They would tell you privately that they don’t want to jeopardize their ability to work with Trump on mutual goals.  While that may be true to some extent, there is a more personal reason which takes a higher priority  these politicians – they are afraid of Trump’s supporters back in their home states and districts. While Trump’s approval ratings among all voters are in the tank, averaging a dismal 37%, far lower than any modern President at this point of his term, he still enjoys 80% approval among Republican voters. The Republican members of Congress know that these are the people who will vote in the Republican primaries in 2018 and beyond. As I was writing this piece Senator Jeff Flake illustrated this point in dramatic fashion when he announced on the Senate floor that he would not run for reelection. He said that his criticism of Trump made it impossible to win the Republican primary in his home state of Arizona. He called for more Republicans to speak out against the danger presented by Trump’s presidency, but don’t hold you breath.

However, the problems of the Republicans in Congress goes beyond Trump’s combative style, his total lack of empathy, his lying, and the fact that he is in general a disgusting human being. He has other characteristics which make it extremely difficult for them to work with him with towards common objectives.  Trump’s “vaunted” zero sum game negotiating style, which he honed in his decades in the real estate business, doesn’t work well in the Washington politicical arena.  In fact it is counterproductive when Congress is dealing with complex issues with numerous, often conflicting political needs which must be reconciled.

Trump’s inability and/or unwillingness to deal with detail is a huge liability. Presidents are supposed to lead. They are supposed to not only propose vague objectives like repeal and replace and tax reform, they are expected to provide initial roadmaps to Congress on how to get there.  Presidents are supposed to be able convince balky legislators to fall in line, but how can Trump do that when those members of Congress know far more about the proposed legislation than he does.  Trump and his administration just provides vague objectives to Congress, expects them to do all of the work, and than attacks them when it doesn’t get done.

Those attacks are also extremely counterproductive.  Senators and Representatives rightfully take pride that according to the constitution Congress is a coequal branch of American government along with the Executive and the Judiciary.  The majority of them may be biting their tongues while Trump is attacking their leadership and often Congress in general, but the fact that Trump obviously believes Congress is subordinate to his authority must bother them to no end.  They may try to paper over their true feeling “for the good of the Party”, but it makes working with Trump that much more difficult.

In addition, Trump claims to have a conservative mindset, but he really isn’t a true conservative.  He ran as populist, a man of the people, the champion of the little guy, the savior of the middle class. While this is all a sham, Trump has to keep up appearances in order to continue to appeal to his base, and that appears to be his prime objective.  On the other hand, establishment Republican conservatives have never been the champions of regular Americans.  Their beneficiaries are those whose campaign contributions keep them in office, the very rich and big corporations, while they claim that their good fortune will “trickle down” to everyone else. Those opposing philosophies are destined to clash. For instance Republican members of Congress find themselves in a box as they try to identify additional sources of revenue to offset the big giveaways to large corporations and the rich in their new tax plan to make in order to make it as revenue neutral as possible.  Meanwhile Trump is warning them in tweets that their proposals better not impact middle class or interfere with Medicare.  Were is all of that new revenue supposed to come from?

So like President Obama, Trump has huge challenges in dealing with Congress, but unlike President Obama, Trump’s challenges are of his own making.  While Barrack Obama had to deal for six out of his eight years in office with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress hell bent on ensuring that he got nothing done, Trump has been alienating the Congressional members of his own party and then blaming them when nothing gets done. One wonders how long this can go on.

I was reading today on Nate Silvers Five-Thirty-Eight website that while Trump’s approval ratings are again near an all time low, the trend is still downward.  Also the percentage of voters (surely all in his Republican base) that are giving him strong approval ratings is still dropping and has reached only 20%. All of this indicates that the floor for his approval ratings may be well below 30%.  This creates a dilemma for Republican in Congress in purple and even some light red states like Arizona. If they stick with Trump in order to get through their Republican primaries, their chances of winning in the general elections might be drastically decreased.

In addition, the Congressional Republicans in even dark Red states won’t get a pass.  If Bannon carries through with his threat to primary almost all of the current Republican Senators and several establishment Republicans in the House, those politicians will have to deviate from their long held conservative beliefs in the primaries and adopt more populist stances in order to survive. Many of these politicians are very conscientious conservatives and they will be horrified by that choice. If reelected, they won’t be happy campers.

My prediction is that is that some of Bannon’s candidates will win their elections making the Republican caucuses in Congress more Trump friendly operations.  However, in the process the previously inconceivable might happen and the Republicans might lose control of either the House or the Senate or even both. If any of those possibilities become a reality, the Congressional Democrats will make Trump’s remaining time in office a living hell.

Cajun       10/24/17

5 thoughts on “Congressional Republicans Have a Big Problem – Donald Trump”

  1. I do nto wish to engage in a falme war here, honoring my host…but:

    Almost Half of Eligible Voters Didn’t Vote in This Election
    A chilling reminder of how important it is to vote.
    According to the United States Election Project, nearly half of eligible voters (46.9 percent of approximately 231,556,622 people) did not vote in the 2016 election. And while not the lowest voter turnout in history (that honor goes to the 1996 election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, with 49 percent of eligible Americans abstaining from voting), the numbers are much lower than they were in both 2012 and 2008, particularly among Democrats.

    The term “eligible voters” means just that, those registered and able to cast a ballot.

  2. That Trump is a demagogue, that he is possibly the most unfit president to ever hold the office is an arguable fact. That Article 25 remains the obvious way to rid ourselves of this most ignorant, and thus most dangerous, president in our nations history seems also to be absolute truth.

    Having noted that I will now venture into waters my host here will not like at all, sorry Cajun…..First, the bad news; Trump’s support may be dwindling as the sane among them realize their mistake in supporting this obnoxious buffoon but his hardcore supporters care not at all for any fact or truth, seeing Trump in an incorrect light, a hero battling a corrupt government when he is, in fact, more dishonest than any in government.

    Steve Bannon left the White House in order to wage war against moderate republicans, and he seems to be gaining ground in that war. We will not know for certain until the results of the midterm elections are counted but it does seem that at least a few far right candidates will defeat their more moderate opponents thus giving the GOP more leverage in the Congress.

    Now to the part which may give my host hives….

    The absence of coherent opposition to both Trump and Republicans is the best weapon Trump has. Instead of a united front speaking to the obvious we have a series of disjointed comments from an aging democratic leadership and not much else.

    I have already gotten on Cajun’s bad side commenting on the aging and ineffectual leadership of the Democratic Party but that fact remains despite its not finding favor with democratic loyalists. There are, i am certain, younger, more vibrant, intelligent and combative congresspersons and senators with more appeal to the voters who now see little choice and choose to remain on the sidelines, 93 million of them last election cycle.

    So, the ascendancy and staying power of a president who has shown such incredible and ineffable unfitness to lead has to be judged , not only in terms of republican cowardice, self serving partisanship that trumps ( sorry) common sense and defense of our constitution, the standing of our nation in the world, the sacrifice of our taxpaying citizens in order to further enrich the 1% but also because of the absence of coherent and firm opposition, opposition that reaches those we on the left so desperately need to get involved.

    1. In my view Trump will not be a factor, except a divisive one, in 2020. I do not believe he will be the Republican nominee and if he is he will not be able to win the general election. It takes more than Republican voters for him to be reelected and virtually no one else will vote for him.

      I am all for younger more vibrant Democratic candidates as long as their positions are not too liberal to be able to attract the independent moderates who decide every presidential election. Both of those conditions exclude socialist Bernie Sanders, and probably Elizabeth Warren. She might be vibrant, but being 68 she is by no means young. Look around at the potential younger candidates who might do well and you will find that most of them have fairly moderate views of the issues of our time.

      And again, while 93 million voting age American didn’t vote in the last presidential election, only 20 million who registered to vote didn’t vote, meaning that 86.2% of those registered voted. for president. In addition, the 126 million voters who did vote for president which made up 57.5% of the voting age population was the third highest percentage since 1968 – almost 50 years ago. In only 2012 (62.3%) and 2008 (60.6%) did a higher percentage of voting age Americans vote. The highest percentage in the history of our country was in 1960 when only 63.1% of the voting age population went to the polls. Jack Kennedy won that election

      The bottom line, the candidates running make make some difference in how many people vote, but that difference has never been dramatic. A high percentage of American have never not cared enough to vote regardless of who is running.

      1. My last word to you on this subject as you seem incapable of accuracy concerning it:
        You said, yet again:
        “And again, while 93 million voting age American didn’t vote in the last presidential election, only 20 million who registered to vote didn’t vote, meaning that 86.2% of those registered voted. for president.”

        The 93 million figure IS about registered voters. All 93 million were registered , could have and should have, voted.

        Over 90 Million Eligible Voters Didn’t Vote in the 2016 Presidential Election

    2. What we have here is a disagreement on which statistics to use to prove a point. Doubledee, you want me to believe believe that two unpopular candidates caused a lot of people not to vote. To a small degree that is true. But here’s another fact, nearly 139,000,000 Americans voted this year, according to their United States Election Project, this it’s an overall record, surpassing the all-time high of 132 million Americans who voted in the 2008 contest between Barack Obama and McCain. While 93 million is a lot of voters, it equals 40% of the of the registered voters, meaning that 60% of the registered voters voted in the presidential election. Again that is the third highest percentage In the last 50 years surpassed only by 2012 (62.3%) and 2008 (60.6%). Based on those two sets statistics it is apparent That the two candidates in this particular election didn’t keep a large percentage of registered voters who would normally vote from going to the polls.

      So what is this all mean? Whlie some voters perhaps didn’t vote because they thought both candidates were “unpalatable”, the number of people not voting was nothing on usual, that happens in every pmodern presidential election. There are two possible explanations for this, people don’t think that their vote counts and therefore they don’t bother, or they don’t give a damn.

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