Our public debate is polluted when President Trump denigrates the FBI as “corrupt” or suggests that all immigrants are MS-13 murderers, or when his chief of staff insults people who rightly feared an administration like this one would betray them (“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” John Kelly said. “The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.”)
Trump and his crass team demean the offices they hold. Worse, they lower the standard of discourse. It no longer matters whether our highest-ranking officials are honest or decent human beings. Trump’s defenders either revel in his outbursts or say that they do not matter, which certainly shows that all of their harping — over decades — on the regretful decline of our public culture was hypocritical.
People do listen, obviously, to what the administration spews. However, although Trump’s supporters internalize his rubbish, the rest of the country does not. The latest Quinnipiac poll reports:
Voters are divided on whether Republicans in Congress are trying to derail or obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible links between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government as 46 percent say there is GOP obstruction and 44 percent say there is no obstruction . . . . [Robert S.] Mueller’s investigation is legitimate, 50 percent of voters say, as 42 percent say it is a “political witch hunt.” In a separate question, voters say 56 – 28 percent the probe is “fair.”
American voters in general have not lost their bearings. Voters “approve 48 – 36 percent of the way the FBI is handling its job, compared to 46 – 38 percent in a January 13, 2017. . . . The FBI is not biased against Trump, voters say 55 – 33 percent. ” By contrast, American voters do not trust Trump to do what is right (55 – 41 percent), while the courts and intelligence community fare very well. (“Voters trust the U.S. court system 67 – 28 percent to do what is right and trust U.S. intelligence agencies 61 – 31 percent to do what is right.”)
Among Republicans, however, only 28 percent approve of the job the FBI is doing, 58 percent think the FBI is biased against Trump and a plurality (!) think it is right for Trump to ask Justice Department officials for pledges of personal loyalty.
When it comes to “dreamers,” Quinnipiac reports, the country at large is extremely supportive. By a huge margin, 81 to 14 percent, voters want Dreamers to stay. As for the wall, they oppose it 59 to 37 percent. “Opposition jumps to 65 – 33 percent in a question noting that Trump has asked Congress for $25 billion for the wall.” (!) Overwhelming majorities of Americans have their facts right, saying that illegal immigrants do not take jobs away from American citizens or commit more crimes. Finally, 54 percent of American voters disagree with Trump “that the rate of legal immigration should be kept the same, as 24 percent say it should be increased and 17 percent say it should be decreased.”
Republicans have internalized some but by no means all of Trump’s anti-immigrant talk and non-facts. For example, 68 percent still favor allowing dreamers to remain. Seventy-five percent of Republicans favor a wall and 60 percent think (incorrectly) that illegal immigrants take jobs from immigrants. However, even a 48 percent plurality of Republicans have figured out that illegal immigrants don’t commit more crimes.
In short, the same 35 percent of voters who will side with Trump no matter what follow him down the rabbit hole on FBI conspiracy theories. He’s been less successful convincing them that illegal immigrants are a threat. Will the GOP return to more rational, fact-based positions if Trump and the many nativist and conspiracy-mongering Republicans leave office? Put it this way: Unless and until they do get booted out, Republicans seems willing to parrot practically anything they say, especially when it comes to the Russia investigation that threatens Trump’s presidency. The cult is strong with these people.