President Trump has been trying to convince Americans that:

  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is doing a fine job;
  • The Russia investigation is a witch hunt;
  • Former FBI director James B. Comey is a liar; and
  • The media is the enemy of the people.

However, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that voters:

  • Disapprove of Pruitt by a huge margin (52 percent disapprove/25 percent approve);
  • Think special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is fair (54 percent/31 percent) and oppose (74 percent/13 percent) firing Mueller. They do not believe the investigation is a witch hunt (52 percent/44 percent), but a majority is convinced that Russia has something on Trump (53 percent/35 percent).
  • Believe Comey over Trump (54 percent/35 percent), even though they don’t have a favorable impression of Comey (41 percent unfavorable/30 percent favorable); and
  • Think the media is an important part of democracy (66 percent) rather than an enemy of the people (22 percent).

You almost wonder whether voters disapprove of Pruitt, approve of Mueller, believe Comey and side with the media because Trump takes the opposite view of each.

For those who might think the GOP can be rescued, there is worrisome evidence that the party has plunged into the abyss of Fox News and the cult of Trump. Most stunning, in the party that once prided itself on its constitutional convictions, a majority of Republicans (51 percent to 37 percent) think the media is the enemy of the people, not an important part of democracy.

A charitable explanation would be that respondents are pulling the pollster’s leg — or mouthing Trump’s illiberal rhetoric. It is also possible, we must admit, that Trump’s anti-democratic, anti-American views have now found a home in the GOP. Our democracy and our social fabric cannot survive with one major party permanently alienated from liberal democracy.

Trump has not yet destroyed the plethora of democratic institutions (the media, independent courts, etc.), but he may have succeeded in warping the mind-set of one of the two major political parties. It may be that for the foreseeable future, GOP loyalists no longer accept objective reality or tolerate a free press that criticizes its Great Leader. Unless you think Republicans will never win elections, that’s a threat to our liberal democracy.

If the GOP comes to resemble the nativist right-wing parties (e.g. Law and Justice in Poland, the National Front in France) and decides to double down on Trump’s assault on democratic norms, our politics will bear little resemblance to the optimistic, inclusive and confident democracy that is so distinctively American.

What is to be done? For those who think the GOP can be rescued, the defeat of Trump and the GOP majorities in both houses are necessary but not sufficient. A new generation may be required to articulate shared values and put forth an agenda that slows or reverses centrifugal forces pitting Americans against one another. A rehabilitated GOP would need to cease its aversion to objective truth and dump its attachment to conspiracy theories. It would need to drop an economic agenda that bears little resemblance to 21st-century experience. It could no longer ignore vast differences in wealth (that now manifest themselves even in disparate life expectancy rates) or wallow in nostalgia for a time when white males dominated nearly every aspect of life.

And if the base of the current Republican Party rejects such an undertaking, it will be up to the right and center-right opponents of Trump to forge new alliances and political structures. Huge GOP losses in November may be cathartic in anti-Trump circles, but so long as the only viable alternative to the Democratic Party is a dark, irrational and nativist ideology, we will be on shaky ground. Think of the midterms as an intervention or rehab — you have to break the patient down so that he can drop self-destructive habits and stand back up with new resilience and purpose.