Republican primary voters keep telling reporters that they feel attracted to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy because he “tells it like it is.” A new Fox News poll confirms this dynamic:
Regardless of how you plan to vote, which of the following better describes how you feel about Donald Trump’s comments on the campaign trail?
He is too mean and blunt to be president: 49
He tells it like it is, and we need that now in a president: 44
Sixty-two percent of Republicans say “he tells it like it is, and we need that now.” Fifty percent of independents agree. Even the 44 percent of overall Americans is dispiritingly high. This is only one poll, but much of the reporting seems to bear out this basic source of his appeal.
So what are people hearing when they believe Trump is “telling it like it is”? One possibility: GOP voters unsettled by cultural and demographic change — and by Obama’s ongoing transformation of the USA into something no longer recognizably American — hear him speaking to their anxieties. Of course, telling people that the way to “make America great again” is to immediately deport 11 million people, which Trump will do with ease, is not “telling it like it is,” it constitutes lying to them on multiple levels.
Another possibility: Trump is speaking to people’s frustration with a political system that is mired in gridlock. Trump can overcome this either because a “businessman” can simply overwhelm the political system or because a businessman “outsider,” unlike traditional politicians, “can’t be bought.” When Trump says the problem is that Washington is bought and paid for, he is “telling it like it is.” Voters are regaling reporters with various versions of this idea.
Big money in politics is a major problem. But even if most lawmakers were controlled by contributors, the idea that Trump could somehow move our system through sheer force of outsider un-bought will is nonsense. It’s the Trump candidacy’s Big Lie: never mind the policy details, never mind the separation of powers, never mind the profound disagreements between the parties. Everything will be easy and terrific.
These two are of a piece with a third explanation we keep hearing: Trump-ism is rooted in a sense of betrayal by GOP leaders. They failed to block Obama’s transformation of the country; that must be because they didn’t even try, so they must be complicit. But this failure, too, is structural. Republicans don’t have the votes to surmount Dem filibusters or Obama vetoes. The idea that this can be overcome through sheer force of will (the argument conservatives are making in favor of another shutdown fight) is just another version of Lie Number Two above.
Indeed, the Fox News poll unwittingly captures what is particularly problematic about this last one. It finds that 60 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by their party, and that 66 percent of Republicans don’t think their party did all it could to block Obama’s agenda. The poll asks why respondents think their party leaders failed at this: they didn’t really want to stop Obama; they weren’t smart enough; they would rather fight each other. The Fox poll doesn’t even offer respondents the option of choosing the real reason — that Republicans structurally lack the votes! No wonder voters are easily seduced into thinking Trump is “telling it like it is.”
* TRUMP STILL LEADING GOP RIVALS: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Donald Trump still hold a sizable national lead among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents nationally: He has 25 percent; Ben Carson has 17 percent; Carly Fiorina has 12 percent; and Jeb Bush has 10 percent.
Interesting tidbit: While 29 percent of Republicans say they would definitely not back Trump, higher than any other candidate, that number suggests the possibility that the anyone-but-Trump vote is still small enough to still give him at least a chance of winning the nomination.
* HILLARY STILL LEADS, BUT PERSONAL NUMBERS ARE AWFUL: The new Quinnipiac poll poll finds Hillary Clinton with 43 percent of Dems and Dem-leaning independents nationally; Bernie Sanders has 25 percent; Joe Biden has 18. Remove Biden and Clinton leads Sanders by 53-30.
But Clinton’s numbers among Americans overall are upside down on favorability (41-55); on honesty and trustworthiness (32-63); and on caring about people like you (43-53). Yet they say by 55-43 that Clinton has strong leadership qualities.
* HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE POPE’S SPEECH: With Pope Francis set to address Congress today, E.J. Dionne looks at past and recent papal utterances and offers a guide on how to decipher his careful political messages on everything from gay rights to climate change. Ultimately, Dionne concludes, liberals will find more to like than conservatives will.
* A ‘LIBERAL’ POPE? Politico raises the curtain on the Pope’s speech to Congress by noting that in his White House speech yesterday, he made a “surprisingly specific” reference to Obama’s plan to curb carbon emissions: “his liberal side was clearly on display.”
Look for the level of specificity the Pope brings not just to climate, but also to the abortion and immigration disputes currently dividing Congress.
* GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN COULD BE COSTLY: Lisa Rein reminds us that government shutdowns (in this case, conservatives want to use the government funding fight to defund Planned Parenthood) can actually cost more than keeping it open:
The last time this happened, for 16 days in October 2013, the White House put a price on it: 6.6 million days of lost work, $2 billion in back pay for 850,000 federal employees who did no work and 120,000 private-sector jobs gone.
Sure, but it’s a great opportunity for conservatives to grandstand before the base, so in this case, the wasteful spending they regularly lament is more than worth it.
* TED CRUZ KEEPS UP HIS SHUTDOWN GRANDSTANDING: Right on cue, the Hill reports on Ted Cruz’ loud, angry, and thoroughly phony attacks on the GOP leadership for “surrendering” to Obama because they are likely to keep the government open. Note this:
Cruz’s power on Capitol Hill rests largely with House conservatives, as it did two years ago, because few Senate colleagues are willing to join him in challenging McConnell. If enough Republicans in the lower chamber side with Cruz, it could pressure Boehner not to schedule a vote on a clean Senate-passed stopgap out of fear that it may cost him his gavel.
Cruz may be able to move a few House conservatives around like pawns, but can we please stop pretending Boehner’s job is at risk? We’ve been told this again and again and again.
* RINO SELLOUT KARL ROVE WARNS AGAINST SHUTDOWN: Karl Rove takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to warn that a government shutdown is doomed to fail and will hurt the pro-life cause:
Republicans in Congress who want to risk a shutdown over Planned Parenthood have an obligation to spell out how they would get it done. They can’t. That’s why any Republicans who engineer a shutdown will be unwitting allies of the abortion movement. Life is too important to let the GOP’s suicide caucus damage the cause with such an ill-considered effort.
But again, conservatives pushing this strategy, particularly those running for president, know it will fail. Profiting off of this failure is the whole point of this exercise.