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“Forget Party Unity”: Congressional Republicans And Trump Are Actually Better Off Divided

Donald Trump has been trying to make peace with his party – and is failing miserably.

Earlier this week, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee went up to Capitol Hill to meet with GOP senators in a bid for party unity. According to reports, the meeting did not go well. As the New York Times described it, Trump’s session turned into “an extraordinary series of acrid exchanges, punctuated by Mr. Trump’s threatening one Republican senator and deriding another as a ‘loser.'” The episode prompted the Washington Post to declare that “GOP unity is dead.”

For any other presidential candidate, this would be problem of enormous proportions. For Trump, it’s more of a minor annoyance.

Trump doesn’t really need his party. His entire candidacy has been predicated on being an outsider. The continued conflict with party leaders has allowed Trump to pull off the rather difficult but necessary feat of being two things at once. As the party’s nominee, he is de facto the establishment. But the reticence of many of his political colleagues to embrace his candidacy means he remains the outsider, despite his current position as head of his party. The duality is essential for keeping the Trump campaign alive.

If Trump were to go mainstream, he wouldn’t be Trump anymore and the base of support that propelled him to the nomination would begin to dissipate. Would falling in line with his party, however, allow Trump to pick up the moderate votes that are always so crucial in a general election? Maybe. But those votes may not be enough if the core base that nominated him starts to feel disaffected because their candidate changed course. Trump rode to the nomination on a wave of disgust for the current system. The one and only rationale for his campaign is the claim that America needs to be fixed to be great again. It would be hard for Trump to continue toeing that line if he starts cozying up to some of the people who have been running America for several years.

The lack of GOP unity doesn’t just work for Trump. It also works for everyone else in the Republican Party. While some members of Congress have been quick to support Trump because it makes for good politics back home, there are several others who view their party’s presidential nominee as toxic to their re-election. The distance between Trump and the rest of the party benefits these folks greatly, as it helps insulate them from the “Trump effect” in their state or congressional district. For the most electorally vulnerable members of Congress, winning over moderate voters will be key to their ability to stay in office. Association with Trump’s polarizing views would jeopardize their ability to do so.

So if no one really benefits from GOP party unity, why do they keep trying to make it happen? It’s unclear. In most election years, a unified party is an important part of a winning strategy. It ensures a cohesive message and presents a comprehensive case to the country for the party’s entire ticket. Perhaps it’s hard for the GOP to move away from that paradigm. However, the Republican Party would do best to acknowledge that this election year is unlike any other and disunity may be their smartest strategy.

 

By: Cary Gibson, Contributor, U. S. News and World Report, July 8, 2016

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Republican National Convention | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Monumental Fall Of The Republican Party”: A Step-By-Step Capitulation To A Politics Of Unreason

The fixed smile on Donald Trump’s face as Sarah Palin unleashed her free-association, who-knows-what-she’ll-say-next harangue endorsing him on Tuesday sent its own message. “How long do I have to stand here?” it seemed to say. But of all the developments in the astonishing Republican presidential contest, this moment told us what we need to know about the state of a once-great political party.

Consider the forces that brought Palin to the national stage in the first place. In 2008, John McCain, running behind Barack Obama in the polls, wanted to shake up the contest by picking a moderate as his running mate. His first choice was then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, and he also liked former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

But McCain won the nomination against the will of the Republican right as more-conservative candidates had fractured their side’s vote. “He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment — and that distinction is key,” said Rush Limbaugh, using language that is now oh-so-familiar. The establishment, Limbaugh charged, had “long sought to rid the party of conservative influence.”

A moderate VP choice would have been too much for Limbaugh’s legions. So McCain, facing a full-scale revolt on the floor of the Republican convention, gave up on Lieberman and Ridge, turning instead to Palin. A new hero for the Limbaugh-Fox News disciples was born.

Where Palin was concerned, Limbaugh overestimated the establishment’s dedication to principle and underestimated its opportunism.

After Obama won, the main goal of Republican leaders of all stripes was to take back Congress as a prelude to defeating the president in 2012. The angry grass-roots right — it has been there for decades but cleverly rebranded itself as the tea party in 2009 — would be central in driving the midterm voters the GOP would need to the polls. Since no one was better at rousing them than Palin, old-line Republican leaders embraced and legitimized her even if they snickered privately about who she was and how she said things.

Today’s Republican crisis was thus engineered by the party leadership’s step-by-step capitulation to a politics of unreason, a policy of silence toward the most extreme and wild charges against Obama, and a lifting up of resentment and anger over policy and ideas as the party’s lodestars.

Many Republicans are now alarmed that their choice may come down to Trump, the candidate of a reality-show populism that tries to look like the real thing, and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), an ideologue whom they fear would lead their cause to a devastating defeat. There is an honorable pushback against this outcome from champions of a genuinely more moderate and tolerant brand of conservatism — the columnists Michael Gerson and David Brooks among them.

But this is a battle that needed to be joined long ago (which, I should say, is a central theme of my new book, “Why the Right Went Wrong”). A showdown was required before the steady, large-scale defection of moderate voters from the party. Now that opponents of Trump and Cruz need the moderates, they are no longer there — except, perhaps, in states where independents might cross into the party’s primaries to save it from itself.

And instead of battling the impulses now engulfing the party, GOP honchos exploited them. They fanned nativist feeling by claiming that illegal immigrants were flooding across our borders, even when net immigration from Mexico had fallen below zero.

They promised radical reductions in the size of government, knowing no Republican president, including Ronald Reagan, could pull this off. They pledged to “take the country back,” leaving vague the identity of the people (other than Obama) from whom it was to be reclaimed. Their audiences filled in the blank. They denounced Obamacare as socialist, something, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is pointing out, it decidedly is not. Indeed, it’s rooted in proposals Republicans once made themselves.

Politicians whose rhetoric brought the right’s loyalists to a boiling point now complain that they don’t much like the result. But it’s a little late for that. Why shouldn’t the party’s ultra-conservatives and its economically distressed working-class supporters feel betrayed? At least with Trump, Cruz and Palin, they have reason to think they know what they’re getting. “We are mad, and we’ve been had,” Palin declared on Tuesday. “They need to get used to it.”

So watch for the establishment’s next capitulation. There are reports that some in its ranks are already cozying up to Trump. Given the record, there’s little reason to doubt this.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 20, 2016

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s Appeal To White Moderates”: The Return Of The “Different Kind Of Republican”

There’s always a market, particularly in the media, for the politician who can surprise by running counter to the stereotypes of his or her party. As the two parties become more ideologically unified, that figure becomes even more compelling. The trick is to do it without making your party’s loyal supporters angry at you. Which brings us to Rand Paul, who has a plan to become 2016’s “Different kind of Republican,” the label that was placed on George W. Bush back in 2000:

Sen. Rand Paul tells POLITICO that the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 could capture one-third or more of the African-American vote by pushing criminal-justice reform, school choice and economic empowerment.

“If Republicans have a clue and do this and go out and ask every African-American for their vote, I think we can transform an election in one cycle,” the Kentucky Republican said in a phone interview Thursday as he was driven through New Hampshire in a rental car.

Paul — on the cover of the new issue of Time as “The Most Interesting Man in Politics” — met with black leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, last week; opened a “GOP engagement office” in an African-American area of Louisville in June; and spoke the next month to a National Urban League convention in Cincinnati.

“That doesn’t mean that we get to a majority of African-American votes in one cycle,” Paul continued, speaking between campaign stops in Plymouth and Salem. “But I think there is fully a third of the African-American vote that is open to much of the message, because much of what the Democrats has offered hasn’t worked.”

Paul is probably taking inspiration from Bush’s experience with Latino voters. Bush made a very visible effort to reach out to them, not because he thought he could actually win the Latino vote, but because he thought he could make some inroads, and even more importantly, because it would be a signal to moderate voters that he wasn’t like all those other mean Republicans who had contempt for poor people, people of color, and anyone who wasn’t firmly in the GOP’s camp. That’s what “compassionate conservatism” was about—not a set of policies but an attempt to be more welcoming, aimed ostensibly at minorities but actually at moderate whites.

And it did make a difference among Hispanics—according to exit polls Bush got 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and 44 percent in 2004. Compare that to the 31 percent John McCain got in 2008 and the 27 percent Mitt Romney got in 2012.

Paul seems to understand that “reaching out” to a group your party has in the past either ignored or been openly antagonistic toward has two components. You have to pay attention to them, going to events where they’re gathering and making sure you listen to what they have to say. And you also have to offer them something in the policy realm, to show that it isn’t just about symbolism. That’s what Republicans aren’t doing now when it comes to Latinos—they say they want their votes, but if anything they’ve moved to the right on immigration reform.

Paul’s positions on the drug war and mass incarceration allow him to say to African-Americans that he has something substantive to offer them. But there’s no way he (or any other Republican) could get a third of their votes in a presidential campaign.

That’s partly because Paul is only one person, and no matter how much he reaches out, other people in his party are going to keep doing things like air this latter-day Willie Horton ad. Then there’s the comprehensive Republican project to restrict voting rights, which African-Americans rightly interpret as an effort to keep them from voting. Then there’s the fact that for the last six years, Barack Obama has been subject to an endless torrent of racist invective, not only from your uncle at Thanksgiving but from people with nationally syndicated radio shows. On his listening tour, Paul might ask a few black people how they feel about the fact that America’s first black president had to show his birth certificate to prove he’s a real American. Their answers would probably be instructive.

The final reason that Republicans will struggle to win the votes of all but a tiny number of blacks is that on an individual, organizational, and institutional level, the African-American community is woven deeply into the Democratic party. That interdependence has been built over the last 50 years, and undoing it even partially would take a long time even if the Republican party was completely committed to trying, which it won’t be.

I have trouble believing that Rand Paul actually thinks he can get a third of the African-American vote. And maybe this is all about appealing to white moderates. Even so, he deserves some credit for making the effort. Given the fact that we’re talking about a guy who first got national attention for his opposition to the public accommodation provisions of the Civil Rights Act, it’s pretty remarkable.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 17, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rand Paul, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Watching A Bad Idea Backfire”: Republican Antics Are Killing The GOP Among Swing Voters

For the last several weeks, the more congressional Republicans talked about suing, and possibly impeaching, President Obama, the more Democrats smiled. Aaron Blake explained why: the Republican antics are “killing the GOP among swing voters.”

The McClatchy-Marist College poll shows political moderates oppose the impeachment of Obama 79 percent to 15 percent. That’s a stunning margin. And not only that, if the House GOP did initiate impeachment proceedings, moderates say it would turn them off so much that they would be pulled toward the Democrats. By 49-27, moderates say impeachment would make them more likely to vote Democratic than Republican in 2014.

But it’s not just impeachment. As we’ve noted before, the House GOP’s lawsuit against Obama’s use of executive orders is turning out to be a political loser too. In fact, it’s not much more popular than impeachment.

Americans say 58 percent to 34 percent that the GOP should not sue Obama, and moderates agree 67-22. Moderates also say by a 50-25 margin that the lawsuit makes them more likely to back Democrats in 2014.

Oops.

Congressional Republicans, by targeting the president so aggressively, probably assumed this would motivate the GOP base, if nothing else, but even that isn’t entirely going according to plan. Greg Sargent, looking at the same data, explained this morning, “The poll also finds that 88 percent of Democrats say the lawsuit would make them more likely to vote for their side, while 78 percent of Republicans say the same.it…. [T]his effort may scratch the hard-right GOP base’s impeachment itch, but it could end up motivating Democrats more.”

And yet, GOP officeholders and candidates still can’t help themselves.

Even as Republican leaders try to downplay their anti-Obama schemes, and dismiss impeachment rhetoric as a Democratic “scam,” the message doesn’t seem to have reached everyone in the party. Just yesterday, we heard more impeachment talk from a House GOP candidate

Matthew Corey, the Republican challenging Rep. John Larson (D-CT) in Connecticut, said Saturday that he believes President Obama should be impeached, according to the Bristol Press. Corey said that Obama has violated the constitutional provision that gives Congress “all legislative powers” and said the president has been “breaking the oath of office.” He also said he supported the House’s efforts to sue Obama for choosing “what parts of a law he wants to enforce.”

… and a current House GOP lawmaker.

Rep. Steve King called into Glenn Beck’s radio program this morning to discuss his confrontation last week with advocates of immigration reform. During the interview, King told Beck that it is vitally important for House Republicans to rein in President Obama for the remainder of his term so that he cannot destroy America before this nation can elect a new president “whom God will use to restore the soul of America.”

Saying that Republicans cannot “unilaterally disarm” by taking the threat of impeachment off the table, King declared that the GOP must work to “restrain this president so that he doesn’t do serious destructive damage to our constitution” in order to allow this nation to “limp our way through his terms of office.”

This sort of talk has practically become a daily occurrence. If the McClatchy-Marist data is correct, Democrats are likely hoping it doesn’t stop anytime soon.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 13, 2014

August 14, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Impeachment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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