The GOP civil war: Has Trump won?
“Everyone’s talking about the civil war in the Republican Party,” said The Weekly Standard in an editorial. “It seems more like a surrender to us.” The past few weeks have seen extraordinary attacks on President Trump’s leadership and fitness for office from the likes of outgoing senators such as Jeff Flake and Bob Corker and even former President George W. Bush. But most Republican officials who hope to have a political future have quietly fallen in line. When asked about their policy positions, Republican leaders cowed by the pro-Trump base now say, “I’m with the president,” sometimes without knowing where Trump stands. Even Sen. Ted Cruz, who pointedly refused to endorse Trump at last year’s convention, has called on Trump critics in the GOP to “shut up and do your job.” In other words, the Trumpian cult of personality has won. “Has a hostile takeover of a historic institution ever been accomplished with less resistance?”
No doubt about it: “The Republican Party is now the Party of Trump,” said Gloria Borger in CNN.com. Among all voters, Trump has a historically low approval rating, in the mid-30s, but an 82 percent approval rating among Republican voters. By a ratio of 2 to 1, Republican voters also trust Trump more than congressional Republicans. “Translation: Give ’em hell, Donny.” On most policy issues, the Republican establishment and Trump mostly agree, said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com. What separates them is the establishment’s chagrin over Trump’s authoritarian pronouncements, race-baiting, and sophomoric tweets. “The GOP civil war is really a battle over whether Republican lawmakers should—or should not—genuflect before Trump.”
Like it or not, Trump is more in touch with the Republican zeitgeist than most Republicans, said Matt Lewis in TheDailyBeast.com. While establishment Republicans see chaos, “Trump’s fans see victories everywhere.” To them, “picking a fight with the NFL is just as good as repealing Obamacare, maybe better, in a pop-culture, reality-TV world.” That’s one reason congressional Republicans can’t turn on “the man the voters stuck them with,” said Jonathan Tobin in NationalReview.com. The other is that with control of the White House and Congress, Republicans have a rare— and probably narrow—window to push through a conservative agenda, and they don’t want it derailed by party infighting or an impeachment battle. As flawed as Trump might be, he’s “their only hope of getting anything done.” ■