Can Republicans Be Cured of Their Love for Trump?

Most Americans can be excused for not paying close to attention to everything that goes on in Washington, D.C., but that’s less true for Marylanders because many of them live in the D.C. media market and a huge number of them actually work for the federal government. They have a front-seat view of the chaos and dysfunction, and if they aren’t following along on television or at work, they can learn about it from their neighbors. When it comes to being a Terrapin State supporter of Donald Trump, ignorance is not a defense.

Trump is heavily disliked in Maryland. The voters there went for Hillary Clinton by a 60-34 percent margin. They currently give the president a 39 percent approval rating. But they like their own Republican governor. Larry Hogan has a 76 percent approval rating, which is impressive enough that he’s being encouraged in some quarters to launch a challenge to Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.

There’s no question that Hogan would do better than Trump as a general election candidate in Maryland, although it’s highly unlikely that he could carry the state against the eventual Democratic nominee. It’s probable that Hogan would do better than Trump in a lot of states, including many of the states that could actually swing one way or the other.

On the other hand, the data suggest that Hogan would get slaughtered by the president in a primary, including in his home state.

If Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan mounted a primary challenge against President Trump, Republican voters in his home state would back the president by a more than 2-to-1 margin, a new poll has found.

Hogan (R) remains just as popular as Trump among Maryland Republicans, according to a survey released Thursday by Gonzales Research & Media Services, but that popularity does not translate to support for a primary campaign.

About 24 percent of GOP voters would support Hogan in a primary fight, while 68 percent would vote for Trump, the survey said.

Maryland Republicans are fond of their governor and they have the unique advantage of being able to compare his style and performance to the president’s record, and yet they still overwhelmingly prefer that Trump be their party’s 2020 nominee.

Whenever I think about Trump’s persistent popularity with Republican voters, I immediately reach for metaphors of illness. It’s like a brain virus or perhaps a prion disease. There’s clearly a widespread mental disturbance involved here. Whatever combination of factors explains it, it is most definitely not healthy. My inclination is to look as much for a psychological cure as a political solution.

Yet, it doesn’t seem like a problem that can be cured from outside the Republican Party. I’d like to be proven wrong about that, and maybe there are some slow policy cures that could work over time. There are Republicans (and former Republicans) who are trying. William Weld has announced he’ll challenge Trump for the nomination. Perhaps Larry Hogan will as well. The more the merrier, and it could be that having some folks team up to challenge him would break the spell Trump has cast over conservative Americans.

It’s frustrating to watch Republican lawmakers fall in line for Trump, but they are representatives and their strongest supporters want them to have the president’s back. I don’t think most of them actually like the kind of pressure this creates for them, but they like their careers more than their country.

Having an alternative to Trump is certainly a good starting point. But even if Trump is reelected, he will eventually be a former president. Will his spell continue to work its evil even after he’s gone?

We can point the finger at Trump all we want, but the Americans who support him are what maintains him in power. We need to discover what is wrong with them and develop some theory on how they can be cured.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com