Liberals are fond of accusing the GOP of being all talk and no action. This was how some saw John McCain. While the late senator had hard words for the president, he nonetheless sided with him virtually every chance he had. To some liberals (not all), this meant the GOP was all-in for Donald Trump. Their words were meaningless.
But words are rarely meaningless.
They have impact. It’s just hard to comprehend what that impact will be. During the 2016 election, Republican elites were mostly though mildly critical of Trump. After the election, it seemed to many liberals that that was meaningless.
Again, it wasn’t. Trump was a minority president with hardly a mandate to govern (assuming mandates are real). The voters he lost to Hillary Clinton are same voters the Democrats are now courting: educated affluent women in suburban districts.
Same thing with the “Access Hollywood” recording in which then-candidate Trump said he could grab any woman anywhere on her body on account of his fame. After he won, liberals said Republican voters would tolerate anything, even a self-confessed sexual predator. This was maybe true for some Republicans. But it was certainly false for a good many, again the very same voters the Democrats are now courting.
Apply this pattern to the issues in which Trump has effectively wedged Congressional Republicans, forcing them to speak against him. Of those issues, two are most notable. One, Trump’s frequent attacks on the rule of law and law enforcement. Two, his unthinkable siding over the summer with Russian Kleptocrat Vladimir Putin.
Remember the norm is for a party to be in total, or near total, alignment with a president from the same party. That members of Congress say anything at all that’s critical of the leader of their party is remarkable (democratic norms aren’t the only things getting vaporized under Trump). GOP voters are hearing the cues, and interpreting them in sundry ways that, I think, over time will create a coherent picture.
Which is that most people don’t like Trump.
Most never liked him (3 million more voted for Clinton). Republicans who did like him now have good reasons for reconsidering, including the fact that Congressional Republicans criticize him often. Those who still like the president are getting smaller in number. The growing number who don’t like him are growing impatient with the remaining few who do, another reason for those who did like him to reconsider.
While this picture was emerging, we couldn’t see the Senate was in play. We knew the House was. That much was clear. Republican voters able to hear cues from Congressional Republicans being wedged by the president’s controversies are the ones living in districts Clinton won. To take the Senate, however, seven Democrats must win in states Trump won by a landslide. This is why the conventional wisdom has been, naturally, that the GOP, while losing the House, would still retain the Senate.
The conventional wisdom changed last week. Three major polls showed Trump’s approval rating below 40 percent. For the longest time, that appeared to be Trump’s floor. But post-Labor Day looks different. Moreover, a new NBC News poll shows Trump’s approval in Missouri, Tennessee and Indiana—states he won by a mile—is about even. That’s good news for three Democrats running in those conservative states. That’s bad news for a Republican Party still hoping to hold on the Senate.
What’s driving all this? Some say the Democratic Party is moving left, experiencing its own kind of Tea Party insurrection. But a better explanation for the hundreds and hundreds of women running for offices high and low is the simplest. The president of the United States is self-confessed sexual predator governing in a time in which gendered inequities of power are at the fore. Of course, women are running.
More importantly, they are voting. As Harry Enten put it:
The base of the Democratic Party is women. It's increasingly minority women. They're making their voices heard this primary season. That much is clear.September 5, 2018
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