I’ve got bad news. I know. I write about Trump a lot. There’s always bad news.
But this bad news could be worse.
If the polls are right, Republicans are coming back to Trump. According to the latest Gallup poll, Trump’s job approval among Republicans is — wait for it — 90 freaking percent. That can’t be possible, and yet Quinnipiac just came out with 84 percent. Those are big numbers. Even in our hyperpartisan times, those are big numbers. In political terms, that’s pretty close to unanimous. Over Obama’s term, he averaged 83 percent among Democrats. Reagan was 83 percent among Republicans. And Trump’s at 90?
So there it is. The stock market is crazy, but the economy is basically good, if you don’t count the massive inequality and the fact of a tax cut that just poured about a trillion dollars into rich guys’ bottomless pockets. But maybe that’s enough.
Yes, we’re in the midst of another Trumpian storm. But the latest storm is much like every other — frightening, yet hilarious. Sort of like the comedy horror movie “Get Out,” my favorite to win the best-picture Academy Award. It won’t win, of course, but what would you expect?
Let’s see. Stock market craziness. Nunes Memo washout. Trump’s declaration, which Senate Republicans seem ready to ignore, that he’d “love” to see the government shut down if he doesn’t get what he wants. Trump’s going all Roy Cohn in his charge — do you think it was a joke? — that those who refuse to applaud him are “un-American” and “treasonous.” (Journalists are presumably exempt, on account of the sacrosanct no-cheering-from-the-press-box standard and, yeah, the First Amendment.)
Wait, there’s more. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s charge that the eligible Dreamers who didn’t sign up for DACA were “too lazy to get off their asses.” Trump’s even more bizarre — and you wish it were a joke — plans for a mine’s-bigger-than-yours military parade, a garish display of American military might that may or may not include Trump’s desk with the Diet Coke button.
You’d think that the every-week-ness of TrumpWorld would be enough to ensure a November midterm wave and a return to something like normalcy. And yet. Trump’s general approval rating is about 40 percent. That’s the lowest for any president in the polling era after one year on the job. It’s also Trump’s highest rating since May.
You can feel the restlessness, or at least you can if you read the op-ed pages or pay attention to academics. The article getting the most play is an Atlantic piece by Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes, two political centrists who reason that Republicans should vote for Democrats in the November midterms in order to neuter Trump. They sum up their reasoning with, what else, a syllogism:
(1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
( 2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
(3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
This is, as they say, tough but fair.
At the same time, though, polls show the generic Democratic lead in the 2018 midterms actually slipping. It was up to 13. Now it’s about half that.
And yet, Democrats just flipped another state legislative seat, this one in Missouri, in a district Trump won by 28 points. It’s the 10th state since Trump’s election in which Trump-carried districts have gone Democratic.
If you’re confused, that’s because there’s no reason not to be. Let’s say you’re a Republican, but not the kind who spends his evenings watching Fox. But what you do watch is Republican leadership going all in for Trump. You see Orrin Hatch saying that Trump could be the greatest president ever. Do you laugh or do you wonder? And there’s Paul Ryan, who keeps insisting, like the Kevin Bacon character in Animal House, that all is well. And when you’re told the model dissenter is Cory Gardner, who got all those plaudits for taking a stand on pot — an issue about which Trump doesn’t care a whit — of course you’re confused.
It has been said enough that these Republicans made their Faustian deal with Trump — if you get us tax cuts for rich people and pretend it’s a tax cut for the middle class, we won’t insist that you’re a madman demagogue who threatens all small-d democratic norms. We know how this deal turned out. While standing by Trump, they lost the Republican Party to him. They didn’t simply enable Trump, they enabled the takeover of their party by what Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson calls “the lickspittle wing” of the party.
It was left, of course, to Jeff Flake to take on his fellow Senate Republicans. We know Flake’s story. He reviles everything Trump stands for and yet, as a conservative Republican, votes for nearly everything Trump proposes. Of course, Flake is not exactly calling for rebellion. Just a plea for decency. And so he goes on the Senate floor to say, decently enough, that “treason is not a punchline.”
“If we are numb to such words,” Flake says, “we will surely regret that we failed to defend our colleagues in the Congress against such a vile remark, but our silence will also mark the day that we failed to recognize that this conduct in an American president simply is not normal.”
Trump, of course, is not normal. But what about the cynical lickspittles? How normal are they? Let’s face it, they are the real deplorables. There’d be no 90 percent in the Gallup poll without them.
You’d like to think that, someday, history will hold them to account. But here’s the bad news: What if history doesn’t show up by November?
Flickr photo by Jussi Ollila