Reality Slips Further Away from the GOP

Trump Maladministration

Greg Sargent describes the corner the GOP has painted itself into. They find themselves having to appeal to two very different groups of traditional Republican voters — white collar suburbanites and blue collar rural and exurban voters. And the message that works for one turns off the other.

Trump and Republicans have distilled down Trumpism’s core narratives into a series of ludicrous and menacing cartoons for the GOP base’s consumption. Why? Brownstein’s analysis provides an answer: Because the bulwark against truly large GOP losses in the House is made up of many districts that are competitive but are also heavily populated with blue-collar, rural, small-town, exurban and evangelical whites. Hold off Democrats in all those districts, and if they win the majority, it will be a limited one.

And so, to galvanize those voters, Trump has directed bread-and-circuses belligerence at euro-weenie elites and China. He has employed endless lies and hate-mongering to hype the migrant “caravan” into a national emergency, and will send in troops as props to dramatize the point. Republicans are running ads absurdly depicting immigrants as criminals and invaders alongside many other ones that indulge in naked race-baiting. Trump is vowing an end to birthright citizenship, confirming the ethno-nationalist underpinnings of Trumpism and further fanning the xenophobic flames.

Polls tell us that Republicans appear to be losing big time in white collar suburbs, which includes the famous soccer mom vote, even though the economy is, by some measures, not that bad, or at least hasn’t crashed from Trump’s policies, yet. Why is that?

One likely answer is that the story Trump has told about the economy — and the country — just isn’t resonating in many of these districts. That narrative is that immigration and globalization pose major threats to the well-being of Americans, and Trump is now acting on those threats, via stepped-up deportations from the interior, efforts to slash legal immigration and refugee flows, and trade wars. That, plus his tax cut, has created the supposed “Trump boom,” in stark contrast with the economy under Barack Obama, which is uniformly depicted as a pre-Trumpian hellscape.

But people who live in white-collar suburbs probably noticed that the economy under Barack Obama wasn’t a pre-Trumpian hellscape. Further, upper income people are more likely to be directly dependent on the global economy and are less likely to feel personally threatened by immigration than, apparently, people who live in more isolated rural areas.

So in appeals to surburan voters, Republicans soften the rhetoric quite a bit.

 While Republicans employ garish race-baiting to galvanize the hard-core white GOP base, this ad’s soft-focus messaging directed at white suburban women features none of that imagery. The spot’s iconic white suburban woman is obviously conflicted over her vote — we aren’t told why, but we know full well why — but finally checks the “Republican” box out of concern over her child’s economic future.

But even that “soft” ad is based on the fiction that Democrats are bad for the economy, which is a claim that anyone old enough to remember the 1990s ought to at least question.

Republicans are also running ads vowing to protect people with preexisting conditions, yet they have also locked themselves into opposition to Obamacare, which Democrats are now campaigning on protecting. As Ezra Klein explains, this has left Republicans with no alternative but to lie relentlessly to obscure the real GOP health-care agenda, which is to deregulate insurance markets and regressively strip protections and economic assistance from millions. This, too, is deeply unpopular.

Trump and Republicans are closing by lying about health care and taxes to limit losses among suburban and well-educated white voters, and lying about immigration while race-baiting against individual Democratic candidates to keep the downscale white GOP base energized. This probably won’t be enough for Republicans to keep the House. But whatever is to be on this front, the need to lie so relentlessly about all these matters itself constitutes an admission of failure. The public has seen Trump’s fusion of ethno-nationalism and orthodox GOP plutocracy put into governing practice, and is rejecting it.

But there’s a bigger problem for Republicans, as revealed in research into senior staffers in Congress. It turns out that folks in Washington have no idea what laws their constituents actually want them to enact. This was true of both parties, but much more so for Republicans than for Democrats.

Across the five issues, Democratic staff members tended to be more accurate than Republicans. Democrats guessed about 13 points closer to the truth on average than Republicans.

And this is a problem because …

Whether the Democrats or the Republicans seize control of Congress after the midterms, you can be sure of one thing: They will have very little idea what laws the public actually wants them to act on.

The current Republican-controlled Congress is a good example. Its signature accomplishment is a tax-cut bill that hardly anyone likes or asked for and that is estimated to add about $2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

Only about 30 percent of Americans supported it — unlike the well over 70 percent of Americans who consistently support raising the minimum wagebackground checks for gun sales and taking action on the climate crisis. Bills were actually proposed on these issues, but you would hardly know it; they were barely considered, and it goes without saying that none passed.

So, there is a huge opportunity for Democrats if they take back the House. They can start passing laws that reflect what people in their districts actually want, and then if Republicans block them they can go to their constitutents and blame the GOP. But if they continue their tactics of the past — negotiating with themselves, attempting bipartisan cooperation — Republicans will take the House back again in 2020.

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  1. moonbat  •  Oct 31, 2018 @1:44 pm

    This starts to get at how governance works in deeply partisan times. If one party gains control of the government, and if they don't deliver, voters swing to the other party. This means: the party that wins control must 1) know what voters want and 2) be able to deliver. Otherwise, oscillation between the two parties occurs.

    Of course this basic scheme gets gummed up by 1) the party out of power will do everything it can to obstruct the party in power, and 2) all the voter suppression schemes we are dealing with now, to prevent this oscillation from occurring.

    This also plays against the main backdrop that Republican policies inherently only favor a minority of people at the expense of everyone else, and so all sorts of games are played to obscure this fact.

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 31, 2018 @3:44 pm

    How do we "fix" our – not broken, because they never really worked smoothly – election processes?

    These two things, of course, will take a D Congress with a D POTUS, and would make voting a more fair and universal:

    – 50 state universal registration and voting rules.  With real harsh guaranteed felony punishments for politicians who try to go back to discriminating against certain voters.

    –  National standards for gerrymandering.  No more "dragon with a serpent in its mouth" – shaped Congressional districts.  States will still redistrict every 10 years – due to population changes – but without some of the most serious attempts at isolating or moving certain groups from district to district in order for the party in power at the time to stay in power.

    Of course, boys and girls, that's why the conservatives seed the Federal Courts and The SCOTUS with bigoted white guys.  All the better to screw the rest of the population by stopping any progress.


  3. uncledad  •  Oct 31, 2018 @5:06 pm

    Reality is slipping away from Nancy as well. This is about the dumbest f#cking thing a minority leader who's party has lost the last four house elections has ever said six days before a neck and neck election. It doesn't take long right at about 44 seconds, she is out of her f#cking mind. Talk about the opposite of get out the vote! What is wrong with her?

  4. Bill Bush  •  Oct 31, 2018 @8:03 pm

    Here in NC, if we don't get rid of the Republican control, I will be very disheartened.  We need one house.


  5. doug  •  Nov 1, 2018 @10:47 am

    Sahmain is also a seasonal reference in Wicca, the Celtic nature-based religion famously called "witchcraft". 

    An under-appreciated facet of Trump's strategy is to mobilize liberals to oppose him visibly. (And we should!) Trump wants conservatives to see him as the victim of liberal assaults. Ergo: If you hate liberals, you must support me.

    The biggest? mistake HRC made was calling Trump supporters "deplorables". Our objective  has to be to slice away at sane voters for the extreme Trump policies which the sane conservative won't condone. (Separating babies from mothers is a classic example.) 

    Independent voters outnumber either Democrats or Republicans. Our appeal should not be for a conversion to the progressive cause for life, but a suggestion that this election, opposing racist policies and dog whistles to white supremacists isn't what conservatism stands for. In this ONE election, why don't you declare your true independent status by not rewarding Trump for rampant corruption and civil rights abuses. Later, if you want to, and if the GOP sobers up, you can return to supporting sane conservatism. Today, you should oppose fascism by penalizing those who have wrapped themselves in Trumpism.

    Don't let your anger drive away potential friends and allies.

  6. Tom_b  •  Nov 1, 2018 @12:11 pm

    It’s commonsense versus the “War on Taco Trucks”. According to Trump, some of those taco trucks might secretly serve felafel, if you know the secret password. 15000 expensive troops at the border who can not legally use their weapons ought to scare away those potential tax payers (yes, immigrants, legal or otherwise contribute to our treasury).

  7. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 1, 2018 @3:11 pm


    Remember, a lot of today's "Independents" were solid Republicans until W's wars went down the shitter.

    And then we found out about the torture.

    And a plethora of other potential high crimes and misdemeanors.

    But the real thing that drove them away from their party, was that our economy almost went down the shitter, too – with the whole world's economies to follow.

    From what I know, most Independents actually strongly lean more to one party or another.

    And most Tea Party nit/dim/half/fuck-wits were hardcore R's – only they were dressed like extra's in a Revolutionary War movie.  and they said they were Independents.

  8. doug  •  Nov 1, 2018 @6:40 pm

    Gulag- you are so right on all counts. In many elections the difference will be only a few percentage points. We will find out Tuesday how MANY elections are that close, but IMO, it's gonna be very close in a lot. Converting only a few voters will be enough.

  9. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 1, 2018 @7:19 pm

    We agree, Doug.  (Same as usual!).

  10. Bill  •  Nov 2, 2018 @8:01 am

    To play devils advocate, undocumented’s aren’t just driving taco trucks and picking berries. 

    They can turn entire economic sectors, such as the construction trades in LA, into black market economies.  I know many contractors in the northwest who are being undercut by undocumented’s charging the going rate, minus any taxes, insurance and other fees they don’t pay.  American consumers, having been conditioned for price and speed (and distrusting government), will accept lesser quality in exchange for the former two. Using these and a variety of other techniques, undocumenteds can make far more money than their restricted, honest taxpaying journeymen craftsman competitors can.

    If Dems want to win over tradesmen, this issue must be addressed.  Calling them racist deplorables only turned them into Republican leaning "independents".

  11. Bernie  •  Nov 2, 2018 @9:14 am

    Reality bending is becoming a real political problem.  It is more, it seems, reality avoidance,  That real social, economic, environmental, and generally quality of life issues exist is a slam dunk.  This is true all over the earth, not just in this country.  The other truth is that this morass of problems is just getting worse for most humans.  It would take a lot to convince me that present levels of misery are sustainable, and we all should expect increases in the misery index in general.  

    It takes a lot of misery to join a large group of people and migrate on foot heading north.  I have no problem in seeing this reality, but I am not a politician,  I also have a problem in seeing any good in avoiding the obvious reason these people are making their slow march, but it is not to hide Muslims terrorists in their midst.  Even the goofiest fanatic would not buy into that.  Things are extremely bad if a foot march of thousands of miles into the unknown is plan A.  It makes you wonder if they even have a plan B. I, probably like you, would have a hard time putting myself in their shoes.  I only know that my personal misery index is not quite that extreme just yet, but I admit having toyed with thoughts of migration myself.  I guess the political posited solution for these people is to make their misery index higher.  So I guess dropping in airborne troops to separate them from their children in route might be under consideration.  Makes one wonder what their demented plan for us is.  

    Do they not know they stand high only because of this mountain of misery?  Do they not know they fall the most in the mountain's collapse?  How could they if they think creating imaginary problems with imaginary solutions is a great political strategy?

  12. csm  •  Nov 2, 2018 @10:14 am

    “The biggest mistake HRC made was calling Trump supporters ‘deplorables’.”

    That has been the case for a while as it gave them a group ID, a “team” and a rallying cry…we are Deplorables!  Their image was somewhat like what pre world series Chicago Cubs fans used to refer to the team as “the lovable losers.”  But lately given Trump’s consistent and naked hatemongering, outrageous lying and all around ugly behavior, the kind that no decent person would tolerate in their kids, and the consequences, including deadly ones, being a “deplorable” is becoming a net negative in more people’s minds as they blindly cheer him on. 

    I believe the cultural view of these rabid Trump supporters has turned a corner; they’re making independents come around to Hillary’s initial take; that they are not just “deplorable” but truly despicable.  And you have to be to excuse everything Trump has done, from kidnapping kids from their parents to stoking hatred based on vicious lies and stereotypes resulting in the deaths of people, most recently the 11 souls in Pittsburgh.  To pretend, in the face of that, that Trump is being “attacked” by the media for no reason. And people who are not far right red-meat consumers increasingly don’t want to be associated with them.

    Even though news on the Russia meddling investigation has been quiet of late, as Mueller observes tradition to wait after the election to continue, the last several weeks clearly deonstrated that even without “Russia,” Trump’s behavior and actions and incompetence on their own represent impeachable offenses.



  13. uncledad  •  Nov 2, 2018 @11:38 am

    “The biggest mistake HRC made was calling Trump supporters ‘deplorables’”

    I agree, I think we all understand that Hill ran a lousy campaign and criticizing voters was just one of many blunders. But now we have a President who has committed one outrage after another and is now actually sending active duty troops to the border with orders to commit war crimes. Deploying our military for an obviously naked last minute desperate political ploy to mobilize his "deplorables". I understand there is a middle ground and democrats should not give up on those voters, but at this point anyone who still supports Trump is irredeemable. Are they not? Our politicians shouldn't call them "deplorable" but they do need to understand that they are. Hillary got the facts straight she just f#cked up the politics.

  14. uncledad  •  Nov 2, 2018 @11:46 am

    " “soft” ad is based on the fiction that Democrats are bad for the economy, which is a claim that anyone old enough to remember the 1990s ought to at least question"

    The problem is (at least with the few Trumpers I still talk to) is that they all have been re-programmed. They watch FAUX, read Brietbart, listen to hate radio. All events of the past are a liberal hoax, nothing happened as we have been been told, Trump will make it all better. I told a friend of mine (he only watches cable, not much of a reader) that he should seriously start getting some info from other sources, his sincere response was: "I can't watch anything but FOX everything else put me into a rage".