One of the unpleasant surprises of your 50s (among many) is seeing the heroes and mentors of your 20s pass away. I worked for Chuck Colson, of Watergate fame, who became, through his work with prisoners, one of the most important social reformers of the 20th century. I worked for Jack Kemp, who inspired generations of conservatives with his passion for inclusion. I worked against John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries but came to admire his truculent commitment to principle.
Perhaps it is natural to attribute heroism to past generations and to find a sad smallness in your own. But we are seeing the largest test of political character in my lifetime. And where are the Republican leaders large enough to show the way?
President Trump’s recent remarks to evangelical Christians at the White House capture where Republican politics is heading. “This November 6 election,” Trump said, “is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion.” A direct, unadorned appeal to tribal hostilities. Fighting for Trump, the president argued, is the only way to defend the Christian faith. None of these men and women of God, apparently, gagged on their hors d’oeuvres.
.. “It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that [Democrats] will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence.” Here Trump is preparing his audience for the possibility of bloodshed by predicting it from the other side. Christians, evidently, need to start taking “Onward, Christian Soldiers” more literally.
.. This is now what passes for GOP discourse — the cultivation of anger, fear, grievances, prejudices and hatreds.
.. “the true populist loses patience with the rules of the democratic game.” He comes to view himself as the embodied voice of the people, and opponents as (in Trump’s words) “un-American” and “treasonous.”
.. As Robert S. Mueller III continues his inexorable investigation of Trump’s sleazy business and political world — and if Democrats gain the House and begin aggressive oversight — a cornered president may test the limits of executive power in the attempt to avoid justice. If the GOP narrowly retains control of the House, Trump and others will take it as the vindication of his whole approach to politics. The president will doubtlessly go further in targeting his enemies for investigation and other harm. He will doubtlessly attack the independence of the FBI and attempt to make it an instrument of his will. He will doubtlessly continue his vendetta against responsible journalism and increase his pressure on media companies that don’t please him. On a broad front, Trump’s lunacy will become operational.
.. But at length he was asked to retreat from that final area where he located his self. And there this supple, humorous, unassuming and sophisticated person set like metal, was overtaken by an absolutely primitive rigor, and could no more be budged than a cliff.”
Republican leaders may dread it, but they will eventually be forced to identify that final area where they keep themselves — or find there is no one there.
If you thought that Donald Trump’s bowing and scraping to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki would put a big dent in his approval ratings, think again.
.. That’s a testament to the unprecedented level of polarization in the American electorate. And it suggests that, as the midterms get closer, Trump will descend further into race-baiting and demagoguery as a way to keep his supporters engaged.
.. It isn’t that all G.O.P. supporters were blind to what took place in Finland. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Sunday, almost a third of Republicans disapproved of Trump publicly expressing doubts about U.S. intelligence findings. By recent standards, that’s a significant defection from the pro-Trump line
.. . In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, eighty-eight per cent of Republican voters said that they approved of the job he’s doing.
.. Some analysts see it as a reaction to the negative media coverage that Trump receives, especially after controversial incidents like his press conference with Putin.
.. “The more Trump gets criticized by the media, the more his base seems to rally behind him,”
.. the proportion of self-identified Republicans has declined significantly since Trump was elected, suggesting that some anti-Trump G.O.P. supporters may have left the Party, leaving him to garner a bigger share of support among a smaller base.
.. new poll figures will surely only encourage Trump to believe that his incendiary tactics of attacking the media and fanning resentments about immigration, race, and unfair foreign competition are working. As we get closer to Election Day, he seems certain to escalate this strategy.
.. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign manager and political strategist, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last month that the midterms would be a “base-plus” contest. Bannon argued that Trump should seek to “nationalize the election” around his signature theme of immigration.
.. his Twitter feed, continues to emphasize “strong borders,” his proposed wall, and the threat represented by the MS-13 gang.
.. In addition to whipping up fears about nonwhite immigrants, Trump appears eager to rekindle his dispute with black football players.
.. For all his support among self-identified Republicans, he is still one of the most unpopular Presidents in history—if not the most unpopular.
.. will only provide more fuel to the Democratic “resistance,” whose entire strategy is based on turning the election into a referendum on his Presidency.