Is There a Republican Tide Rising Questioning Trump?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
There is a fundamental axiom in politics which says that politicians must care for their party, for their supporters, for their colleagues, and their ideology. Politicians must be ready to stretch themselves and their own inclinations to protect all of these necessary elements. At the end of the day, however, if you like your job in politics, the one thing you care most about is your own career and your own skin. Anyone who does not understand this does so at his own political peril. It appears that President Trump does not recognize the distinct possibility that Members of the Republican Party could actually disown him in favor of protecting themselves.
Loyalty for Donald Trump can be demanded in general in politics as well as on “The Apprentice”; but Republican politicians appear to be considering forsaking that loyalty both for substantive reasons like the Trump health bill as well as for political considerations. Some Members of Congress now realize that many of their constituents are not satisfied with what Trump is doing, although they enthusiastically may have supported him in November.
Donald Trump can go to rallies and gin up the crowds, but the media is not going to cover him any longer as they did in the campaign; except if he actually makes news. Even his loyal supporters are beginning to ask about his elusive tax returns; about his mysterious relationship with the Russians; about his failure to produce any proof of Obama’s alleged wiretaps of Trump Tower; and now as to whether they indeed will have their newly obtained healthcare coverage under the Ryan plan supported by Trump.
More and more Republican Members sense that the Trump strategy of lying, fabricating, and ad hominem attacks are beginning to pile up negatively back home. For many their own personal principles already have been compromised. At first it was only Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham who questioned the President. Now the bi-partisan leadership of both Intelligence Committees are demanding evidence and proof for the President’s charges of Obama wiretaps as well as many of his staff’s inappropriate and even illegal contacts with the Russians. Republicans in the Senate probably are already there but it appears that more and House Republicans are demanding answers that make sense as well.
Many Republicans in both Chambers and of all ideological orientations are challenging the speed being imposed to approve–as well as the actual substance of–the House health care bill. Some Members are rising already to challenge the staggering cuts in the President’s budget which some are already saying is “dead on arrival.” There are an array of congressional hearings beginning next week including Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing. There are key health care votes expected on the House Floor and there will be open committee testimony and questions on intelligence matters from all the major Government officials. The “America First” foreign policy direction is also due for extensive debate, in addition to the wholesale cuts requested for the State Department budget.
Finally there are five special congressional elections scheduled between April and June to fill House vacancies with four of the seats having been held by Republicans. Democrats are generally expected to hold the fifth California seat. Both the seat in Georgia in the Atlanta suburbs previous held by now HHS Secretary Tom Price and the at-large seat in Montana appear to present possible serious challenges for Republicans. Trump carried Price’s district but barely, while Price himself easily won re-election. Montana is a Democratic longshot but the state has been showing real independence recently. How these elections will play out is totally unclear, especially as the turnout in special elections is historically low; but all five elections only months after the Trump election might give a truer voter indication as to public satisfaction with Trump. It will also provide a measure of how much concern Republicans Members should have as they look ahead to 2018 elections.