Nothing in Moderation: Anti-Trump Backlash Will Shrink the GOP

It’s hard to understand the thought process of Republicans, running in parts of the country that are not reliably red, who think they can put just enough distance between themselves and Donald Trump and still hope to survive. Granted, it’s hard to understand the thought process of Republicans generally, but the idea of presenting oneself to the public as a “non-Trump” Republican grows more curious with every passing day under this administration, something that GOPers such as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who attended last night’s White House Governor’s Ball, have yet to realize:

Republican governors in Democratic-leaning states are especially vulnerable if policies put forward by Trump and the GOP Congress are disruptive in the states.

Baker, a moderate with high approval ratings in a state politically dominated by Democrats, has distanced himself from Trump since early in the presidential campaign. He said he left his presidential ballot blank.

After the election, the Massachusetts governor promised to forge constructive ties between the state and the new administration. But he has not hesitated to criticize White House policies, including the travel ban aimed at seven majority-Muslim nations that sowed confusion in the U.S. and abroad. He publicly backed the state’s attorney general, a Democrat, when her office filed a lawsuit to block Trump’s action.

During the women’s march after the presidential inauguration, Baker was just blocks away as protesters flooded Boston Common. Defending his absence, he said he was working on time-sensitive matters and said it was not an intentional snub.

Baker seems to buy into the view that Trump can be reasoned with, leading one to conclude that he has invented a fictional Trump in his mind, one who does not scorn facts or rationality:

There is growing bipartisan support for renewable energy, if a recent letter from a bipartisan group of governors sent to the White House is any indication.

Eight Republican and 12 Democratic governors this month asked President Donald J. Trump to support wind power, solar energy, grid modernization, transmission development and basic research on renewables. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker is among the petitioning governors.

“The nation’s wind and solar energy resources are transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the passage of the Homestead Act over 150 years ago,” reads the Feb. 13 letter from the Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition.

Wind facilities pay rural landowners $222 million per year, the letter states. Wind generates nearly 25 percent of Kansas’s electricity, 35 percent of Iowa’s, and five percent of the entire nation’s power.

Last year the solar industry added 31,000 new jobs, and in the last quarter of 2016, the U.S. added more than 4 gigawatts of new solar capacity, the governors noted.

“Today’s wind and solar resources offer consumers nearly unlimited electric energy with no fuel costs, no national security impacts, and a number of environmental benefits,” their letter states.

As if Trump cares. The President made his hostility to clean energy and efforts to address climate change quite clear during the 2016 campaign. He’s not going to change because of a letter.

One suspects that as the 2018 gubernatorial elections approach, Baker, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and other similarly situated Republicans will desperately try to thread the needle, insisting that not all Republicans are like that bad man in the White House, that it’s a form of political profiling to believe that all members of the GOP think alike, and–above all–that they’ve been trying as best they can to defend the values and principles their blue-state brethren believe in. Remember when FDR warned us about that sort of argument?

At the end of the day, it will not matter how many times Baker and his fellow blue-state Republicans–whether they are governors, Senators or members of Congress in districts where Hillary Clinton won–denounce and disavow the Donald on such issues as his trampling on transgender rights. If these folks were politically shrewd, they would have left the GOP the moment Trump became the party’s nominee, declaring that they did not want to be associated in any way, shape or form with the bigoted billionaire. If they lose their seats in 2018 as part of an anti-Trump backlash, they will surely complain that they were the victims of guilt by association. However, they chose to stay with the party of Trump, which means, as the President himself might put it, they’re not that innocent.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.