It was expected that President Trump received some backlash from his supporters when he agreed to reopen government without first securing funding for the border wall. But the ferociousness of some conservative commentators’ attacks was surprising. Perhaps parts of the loyal Trump commentariat are using the president’s capitulation on the wall to reorient to an honest place with the Trump presidency. Specifically, they need to create some distance from Trump World in order to establish credibility, reasonably disagree with the president and express dismay at his outbursts and behavior.
No less than Ann Coulter said on Friday that Trump “promised something for 18 months, and he lied about it.” Hmm. As Shakespeare wrote, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Other commentators piled on. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs sounded off, saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “has just whipped the President of the United States,” while Fox News host Laura Ingraham said, “It’s clear Trump did not come out on top. I’m not going to spin it for you.” What is going on here? Was all their candor and criticism really about the wall, or are we witnessing the decoupling of consistently supportive conservative Republican thought leaders from Trump?
Perhaps these and other conservatives are looking for an exit from the Trump train, or at least ending their absolute fidelity to all things Trump. Unconditional enabling of Trump, including excuses for all his behavior, has finally become untenable. Sponsors are irritated, political allies are bewildered and, sometimes, even family cannot understand how support for all things Trump is possible or honest. I am not suggesting Trump supporters are going to do a complete 180-degree turn, but the number that are willing to go out and cover for him in the media anytime, all the time is shrinking.
And oh by the way, it is not just elements of conservative media that are arriving at a new place regarding Trump. When asked in a recent Post-ABC News poll, 56 percent of registered voters said they will “definitely” not vote for Trump in his reelection bid. The same conclusion was reached in a recent PBS NewsHour-NPR-Marist poll as well, with 57 percent saying they would “definitely” not vote for Trump. While this polling is far from determinative this far out from the 2020 election, it suggests deep trouble for and disappointment in the Trump presidency. Even pro-Trump pundits and analysts cannot pretend that these numbers are not valid. The wall fiasco has provided an opportunity for a reset.
That said, maybe something good will come of all this. Maybe Trump will notice that something has changed. Maybe he will realize that as the 2020 election cycle approaches, he is going to be swinging without a net. When he blunders and falls, he will no longer have a significant apologist core in the media that will deny the obvious and defend the indefensible.
No doubt many conservatives are legitimately disappointed, just as I am, that there is not going to be a wall anytime soon. But I think many on the right are using the failure to secure funding as a vehicle to at least begin acknowledging that the emperor is undressed. The days of the infallible Trump are over.