Despite the eloquence of former president George W. Bush and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — all of whom have discussed the unfitness of President Trump and the unacceptability of Trumpism — we have yet to see a throng of brave Republicans step forward to grab their party back from the president. Flake declared from the Senate floor:
It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, “Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?”— what are we going to say?
Based on what we have seen so far, they will have to mumble something or another and shuffle their feet. Contrary to Flake’s exhortation, they are still putting political self-preservation above country and principle. (“The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.”)
Well, if eloquence and appeals to conscience don’t persuade them, perhaps some cold, hard poll numbers will. A Fox News poll shows the president at a new polling low:
Thirty-eight percent of voters approve of the job Trump is doing in a new Fox News poll, down from 42 percent last month. At the same time, disapproval is up 4 points to a high of 57 percent. That includes 49 percent who “strongly” disapprove.
Some of the drop comes from white men without a college degree, as 56 percent approve of the president, down from 68 percent last month. Working-class white men were a key voting bloc for him in the election.
It seems that the NFL kneeling issue, sparring with a Gold Star wife, insulting members of Congress and flopping around like a fish out of water on everything from health care to taxes have not endeared Trump to the country, or even his own base. He is personally reviled:
Thirty-three percent think Trump is honest and trustworthy, though that’s hardly changed from just before the election when 35 percent felt that way (November 2016).
Roughly 4-in-10 think Trump has the knowledge (38 percent), compassion (37 percent), and judgment (37 percent) to serve effectively as president.
A similar 38 percent believe Trump “cares about people like me,” while 6-in-10 disagree (60 percent). Those most likely to feel he doesn’t care include non-whites (79 percent), women (68 percent), voters under age 45 (68 percent), and lower-income voters (67 percent).
On policy issues, 60 percent disapprove of his handling of health care, and he has a net negative of 32 percent on handling of Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. Seventy-three percent either want to keep Obamacare as is, fix it or expand it.
Trump sneered at Flake, saying that he couldn’t get reelected and that he is doing the right thing by sitting out the next election. Those words might be equally applicable to Trump in 2020. In the meantime, Republicans who spend time with Trump apple-polishing (or golfing — as Sens. Rand Paul and Lindsey O. Graham have done in an extraordinary display of self-debasement) might want to consider whether their strategy is working out. Not only is Trump’s approval rating in the dumpster, but also Fox’s generic congressional poll shows Republicans trailing Democrats by 15 points (35 percent to 50 percent). If that holds, it will be a blowout in 2018.
So if buttering up Trump gets elected Republicans no legislative results, a disastrous outlook for 2018 and utter contempt from many Americans, maybe it is time to try something new. They could rebuke Trump’s egregious rhetoric and conduct, ignore him, proceed on legislation and begin to exercise some oversight — just as the Constitution envisions a coequal branch of government behaving. Hey, even if it doesn’t work and they lose one or both houses anyway, at least they’d have some self-respect.