Trump and the GOP are making the Republican brand toxic for a generation

What's good for Donald Trump might not be good for the GOP, and the evidence of the growing risks become clearer by t...

Posted: Feb 17, 2018 2:47 PM
Updated: Feb 17, 2018 2:47 PM

What's good for Donald Trump might not be good for the GOP, and the evidence of the growing risks become clearer by the day. As the nation watched the President respond to the horrific shooting in Florida, with the commander in chief doing almost everything possible to direct the conversation away from gun control and toward mental health, it was reminded of just how far to the right stands the Republican Party of Trump.

The only voice of real leadership came from former President Obama, the titular head of the Democratic Party, who reminded us that "we are not powerless" to curtail this violence. "Common-sense" gun laws, he argued, were "long overdue." Meanwhile, the head of the Republican Party sounded a different note.

None of President Trump's conservatism should come as a surprise. Trump made a bet in 2016 that by playing to the most hardline elements of his party -- the anti-immigration activists, the conservative evangelicals, the NRA aficionados, the climate change skeptics and the deregulatory zealots -- he could win.

His instinct was that the Republican Party had moved so far to the right during the past two decades that all Republicans would be willing to remain loyal to the party no matter how extreme his arguments sounded to the general electorate. Republicans like Jeb Bush were out of touch with the party they helped build.

Trump was spot on. With a booming economy behind him, there is evidence that he might be able to govern this way. His recent rebound in the polls and his series of legislative wins has sent some Democrats scrambling to rethink their "everyone must not like him" strategy.

But if we step back and look at the long term, the GOP might be in the process of marginalizing itself. Each time that the President stands as the voice of a reactionary Republican Party -- the party of the white male backlash -- and Republican leaders do nothing to stop him other than wince and whine, the party moves farther away from the goal of creating a durable political coalition.

Almost every time that President Trump confronts an issue, he leans to the right. With immigration, Congress is dealing with a crisis of President Trump's own making. It was the President who decided to dismantle DACA, the Dreamers program, leaving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children whose only crime was to be born into the families of undocumented immigrants hanging in the balance.

Now, Congress has little more than a week to fix what he did. But in exchange for his agreement, he is insisting on draconian anti-immigration measures that include heightened border patrols, America's version of the Berlin Wall, undoing much of Lyndon Johnson's 1965 immigration reforms and toughened deportation policies.

In doing so, he is championing the anti-immigration wing of the party, which has been expanding in strength since the 1990s, resisting any effort, whether from a Republican President like George W. Bush or a Democratic President like Obama, to pass immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship.

When a bipartisan coalition put forth legislation that met the President more than half way, he said no. President Trump has legitimated these anti-immigrant voices as being the face of Republican Party politics. Given the strength of immigrant populations throughout the country and the way in which those immigrants are woven into the fabric of suburbs, exurbs, and cities all over America, the Republicans might really be paying the price at the ballot box in years to come.

As the #metoo movement put issues of gender rights front and center on the national landscape, President Trump's general response has been hesitation or downright opposition. Other than the case of Sen. Al Franken, a top Democratic senator who some wanted as a presidential candidate in 2020, Trump has nothing to say.

Indeed, his tin-ear response about the news of White House staff secretary Rob Porter's history of domestic abuse allegations, was to take a shot at the #metoo movement. He tweeted: "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused -- life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process."

That was it until recently when under pressure he explained that he was "totally opposed" to domestic violence. With the head of the Republican Party waffling on these issues amidst the shocking revelations the nation has seen of degrading and abusive behavior by men in power, the party faces steep losses among millions of women voters.

And on gun control, the clear political benefits that the GOP accrues from its 2nd Amendment stance makes it challenging to broaden the coalition into areas of the country, such as blue-state suburbs, where moderate voters are turned off by the idea of doing nothing in the face of mass shootings such as last week's tragedy in a Florida high school.

The gun-rights fanaticism of the Republican Party is out of touch with a majority of the electorate. Nor was the president alone in his response. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had the same instinct -- to focus on mental health, not regulating guns.

Polls consistently show that voters back stricter gun control measures. Although Democrats have certainly not been angels on this question, with many in their party also singing the tune of the NRA, there has been much more variation -- with supporters like President Obama taking a tougher stand. With each manifestation of our national sickness in accepting loose gun laws in the face of tragedies like these, more voters will be reminded of the costs of sticking to the status quo. Sure, bad things can still happen without guns. But allowing such easy access to these weapons clearly does not help.

President Trump has also made clear what the social priorities are for the GOP in 2018. As the Republicans blow up the deficit so that they can have massive corporate tax cuts, the White House is helping enable Ryan's ongoing mission to go after the social safety net. President Trump's proposed budget would cut money for housing, food stamps, Medicaid and more. It is the Great Society in reverse.

Even on a traditional Republican issue like law and order, Trumpian Republicans are causing immense damage. This is not all new, either. There have been Republicans who have been consistently skeptical of law enforcement agencies. We saw them when President Clinton was in office, attacking the President for his strong-armed response to white extremist groups and the Oklahoma City bombing.

But now, they are out in full force.

The President's incessant, full-throated attack on special counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI and intelligence agencies warning the nation about Russia, a discrediting campaign which congressional Republicans have worked with the White House to achieve, pits the GOP against law enforcement.

This is an extremely risky move, especially since the FBI remains popular with a majority of the country. Mueller's indictment against 13 Russians for alleged election interference Friday was a stark reminder of the substance behind an investigation that Trump has attacked as "fake news."

None of the problems that the Republicans are creating for themselves means automatic victory for the Democrats, who have their own issues and have to prove that they can take advantage of this opportunity.

Still, if Democrats can do this, Republicans will pay a steep price for the way in which they have tarnished the party's brand name. Karl Rove's dream of building a governing coalition as grand as what FDR achieved in the 1930s or Reagan in the 1980s will remain just that, a dream.

As President Trump solidifies the extremist image of Republicans, they risk losing the support of moderates, independents and even party stalwarts who keep finding it harder to claim proudly that they are card-carrying members of the Grand Old Party.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 540277

Reported Deaths: 7022
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1125861667
Ramsey46611846
Dakota41151414
Anoka37226413
Washington24233273
Stearns20532215
St. Louis16380295
Scott15455116
Wright14317124
Olmsted1256996
Sherburne1020879
Carver946043
Clay765189
Rice7408100
Blue Earth676840
Kandiyohi618879
Crow Wing591786
Chisago535648
Otter Tail531673
Benton518396
Mower446032
Winona434549
Douglas432170
Goodhue429871
Nobles396147
Morrison382859
McLeod381154
Beltrami365057
Isanti360159
Polk358966
Itasca356851
Steele346614
Becker344848
Lyon341848
Carlton322152
Freeborn319429
Pine305321
Nicollet298542
Brown289139
Mille Lacs269547
Le Sueur265022
Todd264830
Cass241426
Meeker227037
Waseca225820
Martin209029
Wabasha19793
Roseau194018
Dodge16794
Hubbard167641
Renville167443
Redwood163335
Houston161814
Cottonwood151420
Fillmore15039
Pennington148419
Chippewa143636
Faribault141619
Wadena139820
Sibley132110
Aitkin126736
Kanabec124921
Watonwan12429
Rock120918
Jackson113010
Yellow Medicine108218
Pipestone107225
Murray10149
Pope9906
Swift97118
Marshall83717
Stevens79010
Lake77819
Wilkin75412
Clearwater75314
Koochiching74312
Lac qui Parle73022
Big Stone5544
Lincoln5532
Grant5388
Norman5119
Mahnomen4898
Unassigned48578
Kittson44322
Red Lake3796
Traverse3585
Lake of the Woods2932
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 354875

Reported Deaths: 5797
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55489598
Linn20153329
Scott18692234
Black Hawk15460306
Woodbury14773219
Johnson1384380
Dubuque13023202
Dallas1082196
Pottawattamie10612160
Story1024447
Warren548286
Clinton530789
Cerro Gordo518586
Webster506091
Sioux502673
Marshall476274
Muscatine454796
Des Moines439065
Wapello4245120
Buena Vista420940
Jasper406270
Plymouth393779
Lee366655
Marion353975
Jones292055
Henry285337
Bremer278260
Carroll277650
Crawford261539
Boone256131
Benton248955
Washington247849
Dickinson238643
Mahaska223049
Jackson216842
Kossuth211461
Clay208325
Tama206371
Delaware200939
Winneshiek192533
Page189020
Buchanan187331
Cedar182623
Fayette182641
Wright178635
Hardin178542
Hamilton176949
Harrison174673
Clayton165355
Butler161834
Mills157420
Cherokee156438
Floyd154342
Lyon153541
Poweshiek152133
Madison151919
Allamakee149051
Iowa144624
Hancock142634
Winnebago135331
Grundy134832
Cass133954
Calhoun133011
Jefferson130535
Emmet127140
Shelby126537
Louisa126049
Appanoose125847
Sac125819
Mitchell125241
Union123732
Chickasaw122015
Humboldt117926
Guthrie116728
Franklin112321
Palo Alto109622
Howard102622
Unassigned10030
Montgomery99737
Clarke98023
Keokuk94330
Monroe93128
Ida88533
Adair84032
Pocahontas83021
Monona80430
Davis79824
Greene76310
Lucas74822
Osceola73716
Worth6978
Taylor64812
Fremont60410
Decatur5889
Van Buren55318
Ringgold53322
Wayne51823
Audubon4939
Adams3264
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