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One of our most esteemed writers, Eric Zuesse, offered a great piece, to be found here, that made some significant note of the fact that Republican voters are actually moving away from their support in the Republican Party’s Representatives and Senators in Congress, though they are on the whole not moving away from their support of President Trump.
He went further, noting that the strength and “intensity” of Republican voter support appeared to have eroded to a significant degree following the signature of the US $1.3 trillion “omnibus” spending bill submitted to the President’s desk at the last minute before a partial government shutdown was to ensue.
Now, the interesting thing about the piece is that when I first read it I did not know anything about Mr. Zuesse, who he is, what his point of view is shaped by, and so on. So I just read his piece as I often read anything here on our site, with an assumption that if it is here, it’s probably darn good journalism and worth paying attention to.
And in this I am correct about Mr. Zuesse. He writes in as balanced a way as he can without revealing or sacrificing his personal perspective.
It was only much later that I discovered that he is very far to the left politically, and is at best a cynic about things that conservatives value highly (namely Christianity), as one can see in the blurb for one of his books, here.
I do not say this to censure Mr. Zuesse; nevertheless, I disagree with his point of view expressed in his book, for I though I believe he was as thoughtful and as fair as he could be, he was restricted from facing the truth because to do so would violate his adopted set of perspectives..
So, I will respectfully, and from my point of view, offer a response.
I think Eric got these first two points absolutely right. The Republicans are indeed not feeling the love for their party. What I mean by this is that they are increasingly aware that the Representatives and Senators they have elected in the recent past have been unfaithful to the electorate’s desires, and, once they got into Washington, all the resolve they stated about how things were going to change evaporated. The only person who really shines on the GOP supporter screen as being a man of his word is President Trump himself.
The second point, this being of voter “intensity” of support among GOP voters and its decrease, was a spot occurrence, in my opinion.
Eric rightly caught the reaction to Mr. Trump’s signature of the omnibus bill, for it was very poorly received among many Trump supporters. This was bolstered in no small manner by the point of view expressed with great force by Rush Limbaugh on his radio program the day that the bill was signed, as well as the day before. Both Mr. Limbaugh and his listeners (including myself, honestly) were extremely dismayed about this. Many conservative folks, including journalists on both sides were quick to gleefully note (and I mean gleefully, on BOTH sides) that this meant that President Trump had sold everyone down the river and was now “just another politician” in the White House, betraying the people who supported and voted for him.
Except that he wasn’t.
About one day into the weekend after this awful bill was signed, an interesting detail surfaced: The “Omnibus spending bill” is not a budget. It is guidance on how an allotted amount of money should be spent, but the President can change many of these categories and expenditures at his own discretion.
In this way, so went the analysis, the border wall is paid for and will begin construction immediately, because President Trump and his team found that the wall can be considered a matter of Defense and national security, and they got a lot of money to build up precisely that. President Trump himself announced this on the Saturday after the bill was signed.
Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich. Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2018
Now, this matter is being challenged, as to whether or not the President can indeed legally do this, but his Defense Secretary is examining this idea for ways to get it done.
There are other similar aspects.
Now, although the principle of signing this bill still tastes bitter to Trump supporters, we also know Trump himself hated it, because he bluntly stated that he was never going to sign something like this again.
It is my opinion that most of his supporters believe he means exactly what he has said.
The Congress is not likely to take Mr. Trump seriously, but if the pattern holds that has held ever since Inauguration Day 2017, Congressional resistance will overplay its hand and the President will pound them into the ground for their refusal to change.
To examine the matter of Trump’s supporters not being very supportive of the GOP itself, the most obvious part of the answer lies in the 2014 midterm election and the ensuing several months afterwards.
But to get a fuller picture of this we have to set the WayBack machine to 1994, during the first term of President William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton.
When Bill Clinton won the White House, he started governing as an extremely elitist leftist liberal. One of the first things he attempted was to make a declaration to allow homosexual people to openly serve in the military. This measure was a massive attempt at social engineering to force the military personnel to be made comfortable with a matter that they were overwhelmingly not comfortable with. As in most liberal policymaking, the traditional value must be thrown under the bus in the name of “progress.” However, Congress moved during 1993 to outflank the President and then successfully cut his move off. The result was a modified position of “don’t ask, don’t tell” regarding homosexual lifestyle, which was really only incrementally different than the president’s proposed radical move.
In the midterm elections of 1994, the GOP successfully observed that the hard-left policies of the President and the Democrat-led Congress were increasingly out of step with the will of a huge number of American people. In response to this, the GOP leadership issued their “Contract with America”, which included some ten very specific policy measures that a GOP-led House and Senate would enact if given the majority in these respective bodies. The premise was stated very clearly:
As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.
That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print.
This year’s election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.
Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.
This strongly stated promise and premise won a GOP victory that effectively halted the liberals onslaught on American life, and the GOP controlled congress effectively forced President Clinton into abandoning his excessively liberal course. Over the next six years, this combination actually resulted in fairly effective leadership.
This incident in history is NOT setting up for a repeat. And in fact, the Great GOP Betrayal of 2014, 20 years later, was exactly the opposite in terms of manifested results.
The 2014 midterm elections featured a suspected conservative “silent majority” who had been largely cowed into silence by the greatly intensified liberal screed under President Obama and his extremely liberal Democrat Congress.
Millions of Americans were out of work, the result of a smothered economy that kept struggling to revive, only to be slapped down by ever-increasing government regulation and the oppressive burden of “ObamaCare”, nee the Affordable Care Act, which was anything but that.
Also, increasing discrimination and persecution of people and businesses wishing to conform themselves to traditional Christian ethics and morality resulted in these businesses closing, and an increasing sense of fear among Christian believers in the United States to speak up about their own point of views about life, lest they be blackballed and forced to resign or sued out of business.
The GOP candidates did not have a unified party agenda at all. There was no Republican platform, and no clearly stated document in the same manner as that of the Contract with America. However, almost all the GOP candidates, and certainly all who got elected successfully, did campaign on the promise that they would “stop Obama” if elected.
When the new Congress was seated, these “conservative” candidates proceeded to fold to the President. Every time. At first there was the attempt to create a narrative that said “we are strategically maneuvering Obama into a position where he will have to go with our intents” but that moment never came. Obama got everything he wanted and the minority Democrats continued to run the country, and the problems aforementioned only became worse more quickly than ever.
By 2015, the Supreme Court, with a 5-4 conservative-liberal composition actually created a “right” out of thin air, sanctioning same-sex marriage as a “constitutionally protected right” without legislation to sanction it passing.
Up to that time, most states that had put this measure up for state election ballots received resounding NO votes, but in one decision the Court swept all this aside, and it did so with a supposedly conservative majority.
The GOP had by now earned a reputation for being completely ineffective, “afraid of Obama,” and the seeds for the idea of the “establishment politician” were planted and growing quite well.
It was in this environment that the GOP offered up 17 candidates for the party’s primaries. Of these, three people were non politicians: Dr. Benjamin Carson, a world-renowned neurosurgeon and well-expressed Christian; Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP; and Real-Estate and Entertainment mogul Donald Trump.
The rest of the field consisted of GOP senators and governors, and the establishment among them showed its early preference for Governor Jeb Bush, who utterly flopped in debates and in his campaign.
The public distaste for the currently elected members of the GOP was slow for the media to discover, but for many people it was instantaneous. As soon as Donald Trump came down the escalator in Trump Tower in New York, and announced his candidacy for President, it was all over for the establishment.
Dr Zuesse rightly understood the data that showed the GOP voters leaving their party. But he did not go back far enough or investigate the causes for them to do so, nor did he successfully uncover why their support for Donald Trump is getting stronger over time instead of eroding.
That has to do with the fact that almost all of the Congressional Republicans have failed, or have refused, to understand the will of the people who elected them.
As the Democrats have increasingly shifted away from representing the wishes of “ordinary” Americans (the middle incomes and lower income citizens who are striving to make more of themselves) to the increasingly fragmented ranks of citizens who define themselves through identity politics, the GOP has been given the greatest opportunity it ever had to fill in the vacuum.
And in terms of promises and political campaigning, they have largely succeeded in recent history in at least speaking to the regular American on their terms. That is why there is a substantial GOP House majority and a marginal Senate Majority. The words had some effect.
But the GOP’s reputation for caving to liberals has been precisely what keeps them out of decisive majorities in both houses, especially the Senate, because the actions of these elected officials show only that once they get into DC politics, their actual representation of their constituents vanishes.
The essence of populism is that the populist supports the concerns of ordinary people. THIS is why Donald Trump’s support remains strong.
The funny thing is that both parties in Congress advertise populism in some ways, but neither side delivers it.
The Democrats’ alignment is the most clear to see, that being a combination of adherence to the principles expressed in secular humanism, with clear and specific measures taken along any expressed topic of non-traditional identity politics.
The GOP advertises a general idea of conservatism, but that idea itself is cloudy, because to speak clearly about it, especially about Christian values, means a swift and deafening attack from the Left.
Going further, the GOP’s notion of conservatism is itself also sliding left, away from traditional values.
So what is “conservative” now usually refers to the notion of spending in the Federal government and having a lot of military power.
There is no real “heart” to the GOP’s expression of its policy views, for again, to clearly express an alternative to the Left’s strange worldview is to invite a visceral fight against the mainstream media (which is very powerful and strongly aligned left), and the shrill voices of professional victims who are able to shout and manipulate the opposition into looking “heartless.” To fight such people, one needs to be able to fight just as dirty as they do.
Enter Donald Trump.
To fight “dirty” politics does not require lies, but it does require swift rebuttal and passion.
Far from the normally thought-of definition of political or presidential statesmanship, Donald Trump’s fiery swiftness at engaging media and politically based slander has been nothing but a constant surprise – and a burden – for the mainstream press for as long as his campaign and presidency have been in force.
It is not only the fact that Donald Trump fights back against falsehoods spread about him. His response is undoubtedly populist and he expresses how many people feel in his own statements.
The recent passage of the Omnibus bill is a great example. The President signed it, and he received great criticism for doing so, but he also said “I will never sign a bill like this again.”
There is every reason to believe he means what he says, and his supporters know this. Even now, as of April 4th, a Rasmussen poll has his general approval ratings at 51% – and this is an increase over time since he was elected, not a decrease. Usually presidential approval ratings start rather high and deteriorate over time, but not so with Donald Trump. His started rather low and have gradually been on the uptick as his policy moves take effect.
From the point of view of many conservatives, Mr. Trump is the engineer and executor of these policy changes. There is no Congressional hero on his side, though he does praise Congress when they go his way, including very generous naming of names of those who he recognizes were helpful.
Far from the Obama days, President Trump is quick to lavish praise on any allies he has, and he is equally as quick to criticize those who attack him. And yet in spite of this collegial attitude, most of the support goes to the President.
While Zuesse proposes that this is because President Trump is slick, a “Teflon Don”, this is only part of the reason. We suggest that the other reason is that, to date, no GOP congressman has shown themselves as “part of the plan” with regards to President Trump’s agenda. Even to the GOP stalwarts, President Trump is a problem. Maybe it can be summarized by this statement:
The private sector expects results.
President Trump is giving them those results. When the elected representatives of either party realize that it is precisely this that the American people have wanted for decades, then maybe they will win back the support of the American voter.
In regards to the GOP, this is a critical issue come November because the potential exists for voter cynicism about the GOP choices to result in a series of no-shows for the midterms, or worse, election of Democrats promising change.
The American voter is on average, unfortunately still demonstrably gullible, and an unproven candidate with a slick message of change could win it, and take the change the totally wrong way, or block the moves that the President is making.
Either way, the midterm election of 2018 is going to be a watershed moment for the Trump presidency.
It is not going to be a referendum on his success. It will be a referendum on the voters’ faith that their candidates will actually create results.