It’s the survival of the witless as Trump sucks the life out of a dying political coalition
WASHINGTON – They wander the halls of public buildings and haunt receptions like the ghosts of the GOP past – the cohort of Republican senators and House members who will be leaving office with the arrival of the new Congress. Some chose retirement because they did not want to do what is necessary to keep office in Donald Trump’s party. Others were forcibly retired by the Democratic midterm wave.
The class of departing Republicans includes a few who won’t be missed. (Hint: One has a last name starting “Rohrabache-”.) But many of the House losses came in suburban districts that required outreach beyond the Trumpintoxicated base. Nationally, Democrats won about 70 percent of votes in suburban House districts. This means the grim political reaper came for some of the most reasonable elements of the party. This process is the reverse of natural selection – call it the survival of the witless.
Under typical circumstances, departing Republican officeholders would be obvious recruits for administration jobs. Is there any doubt that retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would have been a prime candidate for secretary of state in a more normal GOP administration? Others would be natural fits for the lesser Cabinet jobs. But as Trump’s party purifies itself, true talent becomes a waste product.
In an incomplete, unrepresentative survey, conducted at think tank events and in buffet lines, departing members have told me a few things. They uniformly wonder why a president presiding over a 4 percent unemployment rate made immigration – actually, brown people invading the country who needed to be stopped by a deployment of the U.S. military – the substance of his midterm appeal. This strategy did nothing to answer the flood of Democratic attack ads on health care.
Departing GOP members also wonder why Trump nationalized a midterm election that could have been better fought on local issues and conditions. More than two-thirds of Americans cast their midterm votes to send a message about the president, either positive or negative – a recent record. It was once said of Teddy Roosevelt that he wanted to be “the bride at every wedding.”
Trump seems compelled to be bride, groom, minister, wedding singer and drunken guy giving the off-color champagne toast.
And departing members report that the most active Republican partisans in their state believe that there is nothing – absolutely nothing – wrong with a political party that lost 40 House seats in a time of relative peace and unprecedented prosperity. If anything, one soon-to-be-former member told me, the Republican base believes its party lost ground because it wasn’t true enough to Trump’s agenda. In this parallel political reality, building the border wall would have stopped the Democratic wave.
So where does this leave American politics headed into the 2020 presidential election? Trump’s party – predominantly based in rural, small-town and smaller city America, and disproportionately older, male, less educated and white – is genuinely enthusiastic about its disruptive leader. Urban and (increasingly) suburban Americans – disproportionately younger, female, more educated and multicultural – are finally getting the picture that they are Trumpism’s foils. And measured by Democratic donations and turnout, they aren’t happy about it.
This leaves a few of us entirely homeless in American politics. If you had asked me 10 years ago, when I left government, if the Republican Party could be won and rallied with George Wallace’s campaign themes, I would have thought you ridiculous. Now it is my naivete that deserves ridicule. If a significant portion of the GOP finds this equally disorienting, it is being disoriented in silence.
Trump is a politician famous for following his “gut” to some odd and sketchy places. But the political question of the 2020 presidential election is quite practical: Can Trump keep Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania (he doesn’t need them all) while avoiding any defections in Sunbelt states such as Arizona? The answer: With a flawed enough Democratic candidate, yes he can. If Democratic primary voters view Trump’s vulnerability as an opportunity to get all the ideological goodies they’ve ever wanted, rather than a rare chance to expand their coalition to moderate voters, they would again oppose a weak candidate with a weaker one. And they would re-elect the least fit president in American history.
Given the social and demographic trends of the country, it will soon be impossible to win a presidential election with an ethno-nationalist appeal. But we aren’t there yet. Meanwhile, Trump commits political vampirism – sucking the last remaining life from a dying coalition.
Michael Gerson Trump’s behaviors are seldom God-like
To the person who thinks President Trump was sent by God, look at the facts.
Did God turn away the hungry, the poor, the homeless and the lame?
Did God mock women, children and the ill?
Did God attack or talk against the people who criticized him?
I don’t think so, but look what President Trump does more closely.
Richard T. Kurek
An interesting contrast of opinions appeared in Wednesday’s editorial page pitting the comments of conservative opinion writer Max Boot, a self-described former “climate change skeptic,” and a letter writer complaining about the impact of wind turbines.
Specifically, wind turbines result in “clearing land ... creating access roads ... constant noise ... residents subjected to flickers causing a momentary blackout effect,” while global warming causes “flooding events along the U.S. coastline, ocean acidification and forest fires” plus “a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040.”
There is no longer any doubt that climate change is happening “primarily as a result of human activities” (U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment Report). The five warmest years on record have all occurred since 2010. If no action is taken, by 2100 the temperature could increase by 9 degrees and the sea level rise could exceed 4 feet.
The U.S. is the biggest carbon polluter in history yet, on a national level our most recent activity has been to withdraw from
Security cams are useless without enforcement
The NFTA is conducting public meetings on extending light rail into the suburbs. Living in Buffalo and watching the city’s precipitous decent into drug abuse I caution against such a reckless venture.
Recently I used the Metro Rail system and upon walking up from track level to street level I found myself in the presence of three individuals who were smoking crack while a crazed woman was ranting and raving incoherently.
This occurred inside the Metro Rail station where there are supposedly functioning security cams. But alas there was no sign of any NFTA security or Buffalo police. I had to wait for a connecting bus for another 20 minutes and there was still no police action forthcoming and the drug addicts continued their debauchery unabated.
The Buffalo police are preparing to mount body cameras on every officer, while the city has already mounted “body cameras” on practically every street light. Added to this are all the security cameras inside the Metro Rail system and still there are rampant signs of bureaucratic indifference throughout the system.
This all reminds me of an old Chinese proverb that stated, “You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.” All of these public meetings are doing just that with the obvious futile results.
Matthew R. Powenski