The GOP is Trump’s party
Trump has managed to do something Reagan could not do, and neither of the Bushes could do: He’s made the GOP totally and completely his GOP. The recent Gallup Poll numbers bear out this perverse feat. He registered the highest approval rating among Republicans of any president. This didn’t make the headlines, though. What did was the gap between Republicans who approved Trump’s performance and Democrats who didn’t. Predictably, Trump registered a lower approval rating among Democrats than any other GOP president.
Buried in the fine print was that the big approval gaps that Reagan and George Bush Jr. rang up in the months before the presidential elections in 1984 and 2004 was actually a harbinger of bad tidings for the Democrats. Both handily won their re-election bids. This showed that the mass support they got from Republicans meant much more than the dismal approval ratings they got from Democrats.
For Trump, his Republican approval ratings are the only numbers that really count. Countless polls, surveys and studies on voter preference, attitudes and trends for years have shown much greater GOP voter turnout than Democratic. GOP voters dutifully vote in local, state, mid-term and, of course, presidential elections. Democrats don’t.
Much has been made that America will no longer be an old-white-guy-run country in 2050, that white male voters have steadily dropped in national elections, and that blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women and young persons will be the new majority voters. But that’s still a way off, maybe a long way off. White males still have outsized voter clout in the crucial heartland states and in North Carolina and Florida. They will decide who sits in the Oval Office in 2020. Trump knows it and will not waste time talking to anyone but them in the giant circus-like exhibitions he holds that pass for campaign rallies on their turf. He’s openly bragged that he’ll do exactly what got him elected in 2016. That’s to continue to play hard on his base’s latent racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, pseudo-patriotic sentiment.
He’ll pivot from that to further tightening his paralyzing grip on the GOP mainstream leadership. They’ll cancel primaries, blunt any incipient challenges from a few maverick Republicans who have talked about taking Trump on, and most of all they’ll maintain their stone silence on Trump’s lies, vulgarities and antics. The tipoff is that there wasn’t a faint peep when Trump steam rolled his campaign organization into that of the Republican National Committee.
The great mystery to a lot of Americans is why the GOP would prostitute itself to a guy who by their own professed party principles and practices wouldn’t even rate backing for dogcatcher. The reason is simple: Trump has bullied, cajoled and intimidated GOP leaders into believing that defying him spells doom for incumbents in their reelection bids. His rabid base are the voters the GOP needs Trump to rev up in key swing districts in 2020. They’ll look to him to do just that. This is the voter loyalty that buys a lot of support from the GOP establishment even as they shake their head in disgust at his toxic presidency.
There’s more. The blunt reality is he is more than the titular head of the GOP. He is the point man for GOP policy and issues and, in a perverse way, the spur to get action on them. The party showed in the 2014 midterms that it could get those numbers out while damping down the Democratic voter turnout by rigging, playing dirty and gerrymandering.
There’s more still to why the GOP hitches its star irrevocably to this travesty. Trump will have a bulging campaign kitty. He’s already raised nearly $100 million. He’ll have a fawning media that will continue to give him tens of millions of dollars in free airtime by playing up every silly tweet, inanity, dumb utterance, insult and screw-up from and by him. He will continue to suck the media air out of everything the Democrats do and try to do.
Yes, there are far more Democrats than Republicans. But the Gallup Poll and Trump’s rock-solid loyalist base is proof that the only numbers that really count on Election Day are the numbers that show up at the polls. So far, the GOP has shown it has those numbers. That’s the continuing peril for the Democrats.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.