Ideas & Short Essays
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The Grand Old Party of Trump

More thoughts on our state of disunion. Now that we’re a solid year into Trump’s Presidency it’s clear that the Republican base has rallied around Trump, so it’s probably time to ditch any hopes that the Republican Party might split, or that moderate Republicans would reign in Trump, or that Trump himself might rise to the occasion and elevate himself to become a tempered political statesman.

This is not to say that all Republicans love Trump or even that they agree with him, it is simply to say that whether Republicans love him or hate him, they have to deal with the fact that the Republican Party is the party of Trump. We all do.

A recent poll shows that 83% of Republicans approve of Trump, and of those Republicans polled, 65% approve strongly of the Tweeter in Chief. This confirms what I suspect, from watching the reactions of Republicans and conservatives. Not all Republicans/conservatives agree with Trump on everything, but they see him as their best shot at getting unpopular legislation passed. On the issues, lined up one by one, most of the nation wants progressive or liberal ideas, which means that for those on the right, the time is short. If they want to remake government in their own image, they’ve got to play ball with Trump.

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This headline from Hannity came shortly after a Trump tweet told his followers to watch the Hannity Show

But the persistence of support for Trump also confirms what we’ve been seeing from Fox News and talk radio, and from interacting with our Republican family members and friends and pro-Trump supporters. The mainstream conservative media has become enthusiastic members of the Trump Fan Club. And as goes conservative media, so goes the Republican Party.

The Republican base is firmly in the hands of Trump, despite filling his cabinet with the wealthy and with corporate cronies, despite failing to enact any meaningful health care reform, despite innumerable gaffes, inflammatory racial comments, among so many other rather “un-Presidential” moments. It seems safe to say that there is nothing that could discredit Trump, in the eyes of his base. This only confirms the point that Trump himself made: I could walk down 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose voters.

Or perhaps more to the point: Conservative media has become an uncritical, pro-Trump echo chamber. Republicans and Trump-enthusiasts are simply dismissing any news or any ideas that run counter to the pro-Trump narrative.

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There is good news, though. Only 34% of those polled said that they would be inclined to vote to re-elect Trump, and other data in the poll indicates that the public trend continues: most people do not agree with Trump and/or don’t like Trump.

Defeating Trump means defeating the Republican Party, and the next step in that process is the 2018 midterms. There is a good amount of anti-Trump momentum out there, but that’s only going to take us so far.

As we learned in 2016, we are at a moment in American political history when people want something to vote for, not merely someone to vote against. The anti-Trump movement of the past year has probably gone as far as it’s going to go. We now need progressive politicians with spirit and vision to take out the cronies who now occupy Washington.

 

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Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy; I pass the winters in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. I'm working on a memoir-based nonfiction book on the American Dream. I blog, quite frequently, and I also have a novel in process, set in Alaska.

9 Comments

  1. In this interview, Stephen Mansfield, author of recently released book Choosing Donald Trump, contends that white evangelicals voted for Trump and continue to stick with him largely because they believe he’ll stock the Supreme Court with pro-life judges. “One of the big positions was that he’s Cyrus the Great from the Old Testament, where Cyrus was a vile pagan but still used by God for his purposes. All of this was bandied about. All of this was spoken from pulpits. All of this was said on religious media and secular media like Fox News, etc.”

    Something like one in ten pregnancies in the US terminate in abortion, so if you’re a religious zealot on that issue you believe that your support of Trump is a just cause that could save millions of lives, not unlike fighting Hitler’s genocides. Do you think it’s possible to make a positive case for abortion rights to white evangelicals? Pro-choice probably wouldn’t do it: it’s not your choice to murder innocent people, etc. I think you’d have to address the fundamental belief that the unborn are already human, and/or that eternal souls are united with bodies already at conception. Do you think that a Biblical case can be made for supporting abortion, or at least for not condemning it as tantamount to murder? I’ve never looked into it explicitly, but it might prove a fruitful study.

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    • Abortion is definitely an “issue,” it’s THE issue, as you say. I’ve seen similar articles and have had discussions with folks, to that end. But I still think that it’s a tribal thing. I don’t really get the sense that white evangelicals really hate Trump but they’ve got to support him for the sake of the babies. In truth they like Trump, they like his swagger, and like all Trump supporters they like the fact that he “tells us like it is.”

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      • That makes sense. Evangelical Christianity isn’t intrinsically democratic; it’s a kingdom run by a lord. Even when the local congregation chooses its own pastor, the expectation (in my experience when I ran in those circles) was that the pastor wielded a lot of clout, preaching with authority and even swagger, tell it like it is, having heard it straight from the Lord Himself. So Trump fits the mold.

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    • In terms of abortion,though, as an issue, there is common ground. In truth we all want to see abortions reduced but the best way to do that is not to make abortion illegal (where it simply becomes an underground black market) but to reduce unwanted pregnancies. As on many issues, we could learn a few things from Europe. Europe sort of has a template to follow in this regard – thorough sex ed combined with making all forms of birth control free and easy to obtain. This offends the prudish sensibilities of older evangelicals but they are a lost cause anyway, imo. Younger evangelicals tend to be a bit more rational and open minded, so there’s hope for the future, I think, in terms of finding common ground on reducing U.S. abortion rates, which are some of the highest in the world. (I could be wrong on this last point. I’m getting on a plane and don’t have time to look it up. My phone is already supposed to be in airplane mode and, obviously, it ain’t.)

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      • I looked some of this up once before, and as I recall the argument didn’t hold up very well. So let’s have a look, shall we….

        Here’s a Contraception Atlas, estimating access to contraception in European countries, along with a list of abortion rates by country. The Atlas presents some summary findings.
        – “Over 43% pregnancies in Europe are unintended. Contraception is used by 69.2% of European women aged between 15 and 49 who are married or living with a partner — lower the usage rates of both the North America and Latin America/Caribbean regions.”
        – US abortion rates are on a par with Western Europe.
        – France has the highest access to contraception, and also the highest birth rate; then on the other reference it turns out that France also has the highest abortion rate in Western Europe. – The UK is second in contraception access and also second in abortion rate. In contrast, Poland has low access to contraception and low abortion rates. Then there’s Russia: low access to contraception, high abortion rates.
        – Countries with the lowest abortion rates look to be those where traditional religious traditions remain strong: Catholic countries like Poland, Ireland, South and Central America; Islamic countries.

        I’ve previously looked at this same kind of analysis by state in the US: I’ll track those charts down later.

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  2. So here’s a chart of insurance coverage of contraception for 28 states and a listing of the the 25 states with the highest abortion rates.

    Of the 28 states listed, those with the most access to contraception: California, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Vermont. Of those 5 states, 4 rank in the top 12 in abortion rates: California 6th, Maryland 5th, Illinois 12th, Nevada 8th.

    So, based on both European and US data, it’s not very persuasive evidence supporting the idea that access to contraception results in fewer abortions. In fact, one might be more likely to conclude the opposite: more access to contraception is associated with higher rates of abortion; less access to abortion is associated with lower abortion rates. As they say, correlation doesn’t mean causation: it’s possible, for example, that abortion rates were already high in some of these states, increasing the call for more contraception coverage. But the low access, low abortion states do tend to be Republican strongholds, with greater prevalence/influence of white evangelicals.

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  3. Agreed. I recently commented to someone that Trump reminded me of the evangelical preachers that I grew up hearing. I tried to describe the parallel, in terms of cadence and style, but really it was more just a sense, an intuition I had. They didn’t quite follow me, though it might have helped clarify if I had made the case using the phrase “tell it like it is.”

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  4. However….I don’t know that the Evangelical Preacher is a lord. The Evangelical Preacher earns the pulpit by his charisma and of course by “telling it like it is” and “saying what needs to be said” which is usually a reference to protecting the tribe from the bad guys, like heretics and homos. There is an internal cultural pressure to protect the tribe. As you know, from your experiences, the outlier who asks questions doesn’t get a platform. Those who study the subtle nuances are more likely to be viewed with suspicion than to be given a platform. To me the tribal dynamic makes the most sense of what I experienced and of why Evangelicals are so enamored by Trump.

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    • I didn’t mean that the evangelical preacher is a lord; I meant that the evangelical god is a lord. But your description of preacher as tribal leader pretty accurately matches the image of the Judeo-Christian god: charismatic, tells it like it is, protecting the tribe from bad guys. That’s what a lord does: he rules and protects a tribe and its territory. One can imagine gods who don’t hold that title, don’t play that role.

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