Political Animal Blog

Republicans Love Trump. Independents? Not So Much

Gallup looked at Trump’s one-month job approval ratings and found that he is 21 points below the average for recent presidents. As of mid to late February of the first year in office, the average job approval for the last 10 presidents has been 61 percent. Trump is currently at 40 percent.

But what is actually more informative is to look at those numbers by party breakdown.

When it comes to Republicans, 87 percent approve of the job Trump is doing. That is better than any of the other Republicans, except George W. Bush — who was at 91 percent with Republicans at this point in his first year. In other words, partisan Republicans love this president.

On the other end of the spectrum, Democrats almost universally disapprove of Trump. Only 8 percent approve of the job he’s doing, whereas for previous Republican presidents, those numbers have been above 30 percent.

But check out the Independents. Only 35 percent approve of the job Trump is doing. That is 23 percentage points lower than the average.

In summary, Trump’s approval numbers aren’t historically low because Republicans fail to support him. They overwhelmingly approve of what he’s doing. It is because Democrats and Independents don’t approve. Those numbers are validated by a recent poll from Pew Research.

It is important to keep numbers like this in mind when reviewing Trump’s activities over the last few days. Following his press conference and rally in Florida, the message in the mainstream was that the president lied a lot and seems to be living in a delusional world of his own making. But right wing media told us that we don’t get it…Trump supporters loved it.

The trouble with that line of thinking is that Trump didn’t need to shore up his support from Republicans. His dismal approval ratings come from his lack of support among Democrats and Independents. The performances we’ve seen recently are only going to make that worse for the latter group (he obviously can’t go much lower among Democrats).

In the end, Trump’s need for constant adulation will mean that he continues to try to govern in a mode that is better suited to a presidential primary — throwing out red meat to his base. That will not only polarize the electorate more than is already the case, it weakens his overall support. Can a major party function with a 40% (or lower) approval rating? We’re about to find out.

Gone Too Soon

It has been five years…but it could have happened yesterday. It could happen again tomorrow.

February 26 will be the fifth anniversary of the slaughter of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida resident who was slain by a member of the “neighborhood watch” who assumed he was a criminal. Martin’s death triggered a national conversation–one that has not stopped no matter how badly right-wingers wish it would–about the extent to which American society values the lives of African-American men. Sadly, the hate that led to Martin’s murder seems to have grown exponentially in the years since he lost his life; heck, a bigoted Presidential candidate won Florida–and the White House–last year.

Martin’s murder had numerous political ramifications; it can be argued that it was the aftermath of Martin’s execution that laid bare as never before the fundamental intellectual dishonesty of the American conservative movement. Rather than facing inconvenient truths about race and gun violence in America, the right aggressively promoted the idea that Martin was little more than a “thug” who deserved the bullet. The conservative movement declared, in effect: It’s a darn good thing that he’s dead. After all, you wouldn’t want him dating your daughter, would you?

Several weeks after Martin’s murder, former President Barack Obama famously declared, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” The fact that such innocent words made the right wing go ballistic tells you all you need to know about the intellectual depravity and soullessness of American conservatism. (None of the folks who heaped scorn on Martin, his family and Obama can call themselves “pro-lifers”; does anyone honestly think these right-wingers would have minded if a pregnant Sybrina Fulton–or a pregnant Ann Dunham, for that matter–had gone to the neighborhood clinic?)

Speaking of intellectual depravity, one has to wonder how any African-American Republican could have possibly remained with the GOP after bearing witness to the right wing’s demonization of Martin. African-American Republicans aren’t immune from being profiled as “thugs” and potential criminals by white bigots. Do African-American Republicans who decided to stick with the GOP in the aftermath of the Martin case really believe that the controversy over his murder was nothing more than an example of “political correctness”?

The Martin case is regarded as the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, this decade (and earlier decades) have taught us that black lives don’t matter to right-wingers. Trayvon Martin’s life didn’t matter to conservatives; the same goes for the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. To right-wingers, these men were Americans by accident, citizens in name only. Right-wingers couldn’t give a damn about the families of these men, and the emotional wounds their families will take to their own graves.

Trayvon Martin would have turned 22 two weeks ago. Think for a moment about the man he would have become, the husband and father he could have become, the leader he might have become. He died without cause, without mercy, without justice…and the American conservative movement rejoiced over his dead body.

Extreme Makeover: Senate Edition

Last week, I noted that the old-school GOP operatives urging the Republican Party to support a federal carbon tax as a “market-based” way to address climate change might be better off supporting state-level efforts to put a price on carbon. After all, despite some evidence of bipartisanship on climate on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aren’t exactly falling all over themselves to tax the emissions of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

The Republican carbon-tax group made a big deal out of the fact that failed 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted his support for the policy as it was being introduced. It appears that Romney might have a chance to back up his support for this policy:

A handful of former presidential candidates are testing the waters for 2018 Senate races.

Carly Fiorina, who ran for president in 2016, earlier this week expressed interest in challenging Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee.

And in Utah, the GOP field could be lush with ex-presidential candidates if GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch retires. Jon Huntsman, a 2012 GOP candidate, could run for the seat, as could 2016 independent candidate Evan McMullin. Even Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 nominee, hasn’t ruled anything out

[A]ny hopes for McMullin or Huntsman would likely be dashed if Romney were to get in the race, as he would almost certainly be the front-runner.

Ryan Williams, a former aide to Romney’s presidential campaign, said while he hasn’t spoken to Romney directly about a Senate bid, he’d be surprised if he jumped into the race.

“I would at this point be extremely surprised if the governor ran for Senate, but it’s something he won’t rule out because of his strong desire to explore all opportunities in public service,” Williams said.

The former Massachusetts governor has close ties in Utah and has frequently touted his time as CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Committee.

Assuming Romney runs, would he actually champion the carbon-tax proposal, or back down for fear of offending right-wing voters in a primary? It has happened before, of course: In October 2011, Romney disavowed the scientific verdict on human-caused climate change in order to improve his chances to win the 2012 GOP presidential primary–and infamously made fun of President Obama’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution at the 2012 Republican National Convention:

When Romney briefly flirted with another presidential run in early-2015, he once again acknowledged the reality of human-caused climate change. Under pressure from the denialist right, would he not consider flip-flopping again?

As for the prospect of Huntsman running, he famously bucked the denialist trend in his bid for the 2012 presidential nomination, and repeated his call for the GOP to knock it off with denialist nonsense in 2014…but he endorsed Trump in 2016, thus destroying his credibility on this issue. Assuming the Republican Senate primary is won by either Romney or Huntsman, it will be interesting to see how hard the Democratic nominee hits the GOP candidate on the latter’s compromised climate credentials–and whether that Democrat can gain any political traction in the Beehive State by doing so, however unlikely it might seem today.

Speaking of Utah and climate change, I couldn’t help noting this ironic line in a recent Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Rep. Mia Love (R-UT):

Unfortunately, our toxic political climate threatens our ability to effectively address our physical climate.

Too many individuals and organizations present false choices, pressuring individuals to choose between ideological extremes and inviable options. We don’t need to have either a thriving economy or a clean environment. We can have both. We don’t need to choose between overreaching but inefficient solutions and complete inaction — we should choose neither.

Of course, Romney in 2011 and Huntsman in 2016 aligned themselves with the forces of “complete inaction” on climate. How could either man be trusted not to do it again?

The Price is Wrong: The Importance of Engaging in Every Election

Like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, I could not fathom why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initially appeared to be conceding the April 18 special election to fill the House seat left vacant by the confirmation of former Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Maddow’s strong criticism has apparently motivated the DCCC to step its game up. ) There is no logical reason why the Democratic Party should concede any House or Senate seat; allowing the GOP to cakewalk to victory in Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, which Donald Trump barely won last year, would have been an act of political malpractice.

To effectively concede any seat to the GOP is to aid and abet Trump’s extremism and paranoia. The rise of the right is due to several factors: big money in politics, the right-wing noise machine, voter suppression and, frankly, the Democratic Party not always being ruthless enough, not always being as vicious and as aggressive as the GOP, not always willing to go for the proverbial jugular. As the Massachusetts-based progressive blog Blue Mass Group observes, the Democratic Party has to get its brawl on in the Age of Trump:

Democrats have to start thinking like Republicans. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Especially when real people’s lives are affected by who’s in charge…

I have no freakin’ clue why some establishment Dems are asking the [anti-Trump] protesters to simmer down. Tea Party protests followed by town hall protests convinced many swing state Democrats to abandon President Obama’s agenda, and they lost anyway. It also got the media to argue a groundswell of grassroots opposition was forming. These two things are happening today-only now our side is doing it against theirs. Jason Chaffetz in Utah got this treatment. It also means contesting every special election and hoping to catch a break. Scott Brown did this to us in 2010, [and] we have a golden opportunity to replace two Trump cabinet officials with Democrats today. 20 Districts represented by Republicans voted for Clinton. Some with double digit swings to the left that parallel the double digit swings to Trump in the rust belt. Time to seize the day.

The Democratic Party cannot continue to fight by the rules of the Marquess of Queensberry while the Republican Party fights by the rules of the Marquis de Sade; if a party doesn’t fight ruthlessly for one’s political constituency, that party will effectively abandon its political constituency.

Say what you will about the GOP, but that party has long affirmed the old saw about how one misses 100 percent of the shots one doesn’t take. The Scott Brown example Blue Mass Group cites is key. Brown and his backers believed all along they could win the seat left vacant by the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy in August 2009, despite the widespread assumption that the Democrats would hold easily on to that seat; in a January 2010 special election, Brown shocked the world. (The GOP appears determined to recapture that seat–which Elizabeth Warren won from Brown in 2012–even if their roster of potential candidates is somehwat less than impressive.)

Every election is an opportunity. No election should be conceded. History is indeed written by the winners. Why would Democrats ever want Donald Trump and his minions to compose the final draft?