This past Tuesday, the world rocked a little bit.
All told, it was a comparatively minor quake, nothing like the monster tremors of 2016 that seemed to shake the very foundations of reality for a large swathe of the American people. But the first real electoral test of the Trump coalition – that erstwhile basket of deplorables – did not go terribly well for the Grand Old Party. I suspect one would not be remiss in describing the results as fundamentally catastrophic.
There is essentially no way anyone within the Republican Party could look at November 7, 2017 as anything less than a repudiation, not only of Trump’s agenda, but of Trump himself. And when your party is so closely tied to a deeply unpopular president, when that president has so thoroughly co-opted its ideology and mission statement, you’re going to go down with him.
That is the devil’s bargain the GOP struck when it nominated him; “if we can get ANY republican into the White House,” the reasoning went, “we can essentially pass our legislative package unopposed. And if the cost is that we have to let Trump carry us for a few years, it’s worth it.” Rational, if certainly unprincipled and calculating. But their electoral success last year, for all its Sturm und Drang, did little beyond exposing the inability of the GOP coalition to govern in any meaningful capacity, as the party, bereft of the unifying force of a common foe in the person of Barack Obama, has been rent by internal divisions even as the president himself is plagued by bad press. The end result has been a lack of any quantifiable results to justify the Party’s continued tolerance of the president’s antics – and ongoing scandals.
So now, instead of celebrating a year of legislative and policy triumphs that should have followed their conquest of two out of three branches of federal government alongside a solid majority of statehouses and governor’s mansions, the GOP has found themselvesabandoned by the people who handed them victory at a most inopportune time: the eve of a midterm election year.
This puts the GOP in a bit of a bad spot, and one they’ll need help crawling out of. It’s ultimately a question of public relations: how, if it’s even possible, can a party get out from under the toxic cloud of Trump’s low popularity ratings?