Why So Many Republicans Cling To Trump
Ben Shapiro got part of it right. A toxic mix of status anxiety, persecution fears, and echoes of the Civil War helps explain why they follow Trump into the abyss.
On September 17, 1862, over 10,000 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or went missing in a single day at the Battle of Antietam. Very few of them came from slave-owning families, so why did they agree to give their lives in defense of human bondage?
I was reminded of this question when I noticed that Politico Playbook had recruited conservative celebrity and author Ben Shapiro;to explain why the vast majority of House Republicans voted not to impeach President Trump on Wednesday for sending a murderous mob after them on January 6. Politico was slammed by liberals for opening its best-known section to a conservative whos been charged with being bigoted and intolerant. But Shapiros explanation of the rallying around Trump during his final days wasnt totally off base. He was on to something about how Republicans see the world.
With Trump leaving office within a week, defending his incitement of an insurrection doesnt seem to be in the long-term self-interest of Republican officeholders.;But the Civil War example helps explain why people sometimes do very self-destructive things out of spite or insecurity.
White supremacy was such a consensus view at the time that Lincoln felt compelled to defend it.
Like the rebels at Antietam, no one wants to die for nothing.
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Why Are Republicans So Mean
Let’s state right off-the-bat that conservatives indeed have much to offer. In fact, the very notion of conservatism itself keeps us grounded in tradition and prevents our society from spinning into the chaos of constant flux that would surely result if we were to impetuously pursue every new liberal idea to spring forth from our fertile minds. And conservatives admirably believe in America, established order, family, freedom, and success. This all sounds wonderful.
But when it comes to other people who happen to be different from the establishment, Republicans seem to be downright mean and nasty.
We are constantly reminded of the meanness of Republicans over and over again. One recent example is evident in the xenophobic remarks of the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who recently referred to Mexican and other immigrants as rapists and murderers.
Basic common sense, however, tells us that human beings are not any more or less violent based upon where on a map they happened to have been born. And the evidence in studies bears this out as well by indicating that immigrants are no more likely to be violent than members of the overall population. Makes sense.
But Republicans seem to harbor some sort of a fear of foreigners and an aversion against other kinds of people who are not part of the established in-group. Their view seems to be that these other people are not like us, they pose a threat to us , and thus automatically they should be regarded as enemies.
There Arent Real Forces Within The Gop Leading Change
There is some appetite for change within the GOP. In those 2024 polls, at least a third of Republicans either were supporting a GOP presidential candidate other than Trump or were undecided.;
In YouGov Blues polling, only about 40 percent of Republicans identified themselves as Trump Republicans. A recent survey from Fabrizio, Lee and Associates, a GOP-leaning firm that worked on Trumps presidential campaigns, found that about 40 percent of Republican voters didnt want Trump to continue to be a leader in the party. Those numbers dont necessarily mean that those voters want the GOP to change drastically. But there is a substantial number of Trump-skeptical/ready-to-move-on-from-Trump Republican voters. But that sentiment isnt really showing up in the Republican Partys actions during the last three months basically everything GOP officials in states and in Washington are doing lines up with the Trumpian approach. So what gives?;
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It is hard to see Republicans changing course, even if a meaningful minority of voters in the party wants changes, without some elite institutions and powerful people in the party pushing a new vision. And its hard to see real anti-Trumpism forces emerging in the GOP right now.;
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Reality Check : Biden Cant Be Fdr
Theres no question that Biden is swinging for the fences. Beyond the emerging bipartisan infrastructure bill, he has proposed a far-reaching series of programs that would collectively move the United States several steps closer to the kind of social democracy prevalent in most industrialized nations: free community college, big support for childcare and homebound seniors, a sharp increase in Medicaid, more people eligible for Medicare, a reinvigorated labor movement. It is why 100 days into the administration, NPR was asking a commonly heard question: Can Biden Join FDR and LBJ In The Democratic Party’s Pantheon?
But the FDR and LBJ examples show conclusively why visions of a transformational Biden agenda are so hard to turn into reality. In 1933, FDR had won a huge popular and electoral landslide, after which he had a three-to-one Democratic majority in the House and a 59-vote majority in the Senate. Similarly, LBJ in 1964 had won a massive popular and electoral vote landslide, along with a Senate with 69 Democrats and a House with 295. Last November, on the other hand, only 42,000 votes in three key states kept Trump from winning re-election. Democrats losses in the House whittled their margin down to mid-single digits. The Senate is 50-50.
Most Republicans Said That President Obama Should Be Impeached Because Of The 2012 Attack On The Us Consulate In Benghazi
Their own investigations, however, proved them wrong. Every Congressional inquiry, including those by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, concluded that the Obama administration did nothing wrong regarding Benghazi, that there was no stand down order given, and that neither the President nor anyone in his administration lied about it. Each and every Republican investigation has reached this same conclusion, but Republicans continue to exploit this tragedy for political gain.
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Nominating Mitt Romney For President
Despite the failure to grab the Senate, the GOP was still riding strong anti-Obamacare sentiment and voter frustration over the slow recovery from the Great Recession. Much of this was fueled by the Tea Party movement, which added a rare Republican grassroots element to the GOP.
When you think about it now, all of that made former Mitt Romney an extremely odd choice for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. He embodied the establishment GOP in almost every way. Romney had years as a hedge fund manager at Bain Capital on his resume at a time when most Americans were still blaming Wall Street for the nation’s economic woes. Worst of all, his universal health coverage plan enacted while he was governor of Massachusetts looked eerily like Obamacare. In fact, “Romneycare” was seen as one of the models the crafters of the Affordable Care Act used when they wrote the law. If the GOP wanted to put up a candidate who invigorated its anti-Obamacare and increasingly anti-establishment base, they couldn’t have missed the mark much more than they did with Mitt Romney.
Bidens Bill Is More Popular
We live in the middle of an era of tremendous polarization, yet Joe Bidens American Rescue Plan is shockingly popular. Its one of the most popular, least polarizing pieces of legislation in recent memory. According to a recent Politico/Morning Consultpoll, 76 percent of voters support Bidens plan, including a majority of Republicans.
Its worth noting that most polls show that 70 percent or so of Republicans believe Joe Biden is an illegitimate president. Therefore, a large segment of people who think Biden stole the election also supports his COVID and economic recovery plans.
Obamas Recovery Act was never this popular. A January 2009 Gallup poll found that the public favored Obamas plan 52 percent to 38 percent.
These are good numbers but nowhere near the sky-high popularity of the Biden plan. At the time of this poll, Obamas approval rating was hovering around 70 percent. Bidens plan is more popular than he is Bidens job approval is 52.8 per FiveThirtyEight. That disparity is evidence of Bidens COVID plan’s political durability and the dangerous game Republicans are playing by opposing it. People who dont like Biden but like his plan are the exact people who the Republicans need to win over to take back Congress.
Times Republicans Were Wrong
It’s no secret that politicians tend to use exaggerated political rhetoric to get people to vote for them. In recent decades, Republicans have repeatedly made very ominous predictions about the horrors that will result from Democratic policies while painting a rosy picture of what will result from Republican policies. Now we have the luxury of looking back over the years to examine those predictions and policies. Below, you will find twenty-one examples of times Republicans were blatantly wrong.
Taking The Perspective Of Others Proved To Be Really Hard
The divide in the United States is wide, and one indication of that is how difficult our question proved for many thoughtful citizens. A 77-year-old Republican woman from Pennsylvania was typical of the voters who struggled with this question, telling us, This is really hard for me to even try to think like a devilcrat!, I am sorry but I in all honesty cannot answer this question. I cannot even wrap my mind around any reason they would be good for this country.
Similarly, a 53-year-old Republican from Virginia said, I honestly cannot even pretend to be a Democrat and try to come up with anything positive at all, but, I guess they would vote Democrat because they are illegal immigrants and they are promised many benefits to voting for that party. Also, just to follow what others are doing. And third would be just because they hate Trump so much. The picture she paints of the typical Democratic voter being an immigrant, who goes along with their party or simply hates Trump will seem like a strange caricature to most Democratic voters. But her answer seems to lack the animus of many.;;
Democrats struggled just as much as Republicans. A 33-year-old woman from California told said, i really am going to have a hard time doing this but then offered that Republicans are morally right as in values, going to protect us from terrorest and immigrants, going to create jobs.
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Reality Check #: The Electoral College And The Senate Are Profoundly Undemocraticand Were Stuck With Them
Because the Constitution set up a state-by-state system for picking presidents, the massive Democratic majorities we now see in California and New York often mislead us about the partys national electoral prospects. In 2016, Hillary Clintons 3-million-vote plurality came entirely from California. In 2020, Bidens 7-million-vote edge came entirely from California and New York. These are largely what election experts call wasted votesDemocratic votes that dont, ultimately, help the Democrat to win. That imbalance explains why Trump won the Electoral College in 2016 and came within a handful of votes in three states from doing the same last November, despite his decisive popular-vote losses.
The response from aggrieved Democrats? Abolish the Electoral College! In practice, theyd need to get two-thirds of the House and Senate, and three-fourths of the state legislatures, to ditch the process that gives Republicans their only plausible chance these days to win the White House. Shortly after the 2016 election, Gallup found that Republican support for abolishing the electoral college had dropped to 19 percent. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a state-by-state scheme to effectively abolish the Electoral College without changing the Constitution, hasnt seen support from a single red or purple state.
Surrendering Before The Battle
The midterm elections of 2014 gave the Republicans control of the Senate that they should have won in 2010. But even before the new members took their oaths of office, then-Senate Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell promised never to trigger a government shutdown. That effectively took the sharpest arrow out of the GOP’s congressional quiver, and again relieved the greatest pressure the Republicans could have exercised against Obama.
Unified Republican Opposition To Obama’s Policies Helped Them Retake Congress In 2010 Here’s Why It May Not Work Again
When the House of Representatives passed President Bidens COVID-relief plan last weekend, every single Republican voted against it. Earlier this week, Senator John Thune, Mitch McConnells deputy, predicted that every Republican Senator would vote against the Biden plan. Thunes reasoning was typically cynical. He said the Republicans wanted to:
make the Democrats own a piece of legislation that I think is going to have long-term adverse consequences.
This was the latest example of Republicans saying the quiet part out loud. Thune is admitting they are making a bet that the Biden plan wont work, and Republicans can reap the political rewards of a sub-standard economy in 2022. This is the same bet the Republicans made in 2009 when they decided to oppose Barack Obamas efforts to address the financial crisis.
Politically, the 2009 bet paid off. The Republicans rode a wave of economic discontent to control of the House and a massive set of wins down-ballot that would impact politics for more than a decade. But just because it worked then doesnt mean it will work now. The Republicans may be making a massive miscalculation by re-fighting the last war.
Republicans Said President Obama Would Raise Taxes Sky High
It never happened. Income taxes for over 95% of Americans remained the same or lower than they were before Obama was elected. The only people whose income taxes increased were those who make more than $400,000 per year, and their taxes rose only 3%. For most Americans, taxes are still lower now than they were under Reagan.
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Blowing The Midterm Elections
The 2008 elections gave Barack Obama a clear win in the presidential election and the Democrats a filibuster-proof supermajority in Congress. They proceeded to spend that political capital almost entirely on passing Obamacare in a lengthy process that included a number of unusual compromises with their own party members, like the “Cornhusker Kickback” and controversial legislative tricks like the “deemed as passed” maneuver. All of this took place even as the Affordable Care Act failed to gain majority support in the polls.
That set the stage for a strong Republican advantage going into the 2010 midterm elections. On paper, the GOP did score a resounding victory, picking up 63 seats in the House of Representatives and a net gain of six seats in the Senate.
But Republicans blew a solid chance to retake the Senate. They put up weak candidates in several winnable races. They included Sharon Angle in Nevada, who was seen as too radical and managed to lose to then-incumbent Harry Reid despite his very weak approval ratings in his home state. Arch-abortion opponent Ken Buck won the GOP nomination in Colorado, . The biggest mistake of all was Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. O’Donnell lost after she became infamous for her revelation that she had once experimented with witchcraft.
As a result, the Democrats kept control of the Senate and the Republicans lost a chance to force Obama into what could have been a series of advantageous compromises over the next six years.
The Gop Is A Grave Threat To American Democracy
Unless and until Republicans summon the wit and the will to salvage the party, ruin will follow.
About the author: Peter Wehner is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.
The hope of many conservative critics of Donald Trump was that soon after his defeat, and especially in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, the Republican Party would snap back into its former shape. The Trump presidency would end up being no more than an ugly parenthesis. The GOP would distance itself from Trump and Trumpism, and become a normal party once again.
But that dream soon died. The Trump presidency might have been the first act in a longer and even darker political drama, in which the Republican Party is becoming more radicalized. How long this will last is an open question; whether it is happening is not.
To better grasp whats happening among 2020 Trump voters, I spoke with Sarah Longwell, a lifelong conservative and political strategist who is now the publisher of The Bulwark, a news and opinion website that is home to anti-Trump conservatives. She is also the founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, now the Republican Accountability Project.
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Prior To Going To War In Iraq Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Optimistically Predicted The Iraq War Might Last Six Days Six Weeks I Doubt Six Months
What’s more, Vice-President Dick Cheney said we would be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi people after we overthrow Saddam.
They were both horribly wrong. Instead of six weeks or six months, the Iraq war lasted eight long and bloody years costing thousands of American lives. It led to an Iraqi civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites that took hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Many Iraqi militia groups were formed to fight against the U.S. forces that occupied Iraq. Whats more, Al Qaeda, which did not exist in Iraq before the war, used the turmoil in Iraq to establish a new foothold in that country.
The Iraq war was arguably the most tragic foreign policy blunder in US history.