The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Democrats’ insatiable appetite for opposition to Donald Trump

If there are two charts that suggest a very polarized, nasty four years ahead, they're these two.

First, we have Republican voters saying they are more likely to side with President Trump if and when he clashes with GOP leaders.

And second, we have Democratic voters saying, overwhelmingly, that they are more worried about their leaders doing too little to stop Trump rather than going too far.

In other words, when Trump does something a little further out to the extreme -- like a travel ban, for instance -- GOP base voters are more apt to take his side. And when Democrats don't go to extremes to stop Trump -- as in, say, filibustering Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch -- they risk incurring the wrath of a base that wants them to pull out every stop at all times.

As Philip Bump notes, the first half of this equation isn't all that surprising. GOP voters have long sided with Trump over GOP congressional leaders, dating back to the 2016 campaign. The relative unpopularity of those leaders probably doesn't help their case. And the same thing happened early in Barack Obama's presidency, with 65 percent saying in a 2009 CNN poll that they deferred to Obama when he disagreed with congressional Democrats. Just 26 percent sided with Democrats in Congress.

But the second part is more notable. We've seen evidence of this absolute anti-Trumpism in the Democratic Party in the form of phone-calling campaigns that led to overwhelming Democratic votes against Cabinet picks and protests including the Women's March on Washington and now the tumultuous congressional town halls. These numbers quantify it.

Americans are flocking to Republican legislators' town hall meetings with questions about health care, immigration and more. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

The Pew polls also shows Democrats aren't particular enamored of the man who has flirted with working with Trump on certain issues -- and who really is the one Democratic leader standing in Trump's way: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer is viewed unfavorably by 26 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, compared to 37 percent who see him favorably. His favorable rating with Democrats actually isn't all that much higher than it is with Republicans (24 percent).

Those are the kinds of numbers that Republican leaders became accustomed to when their party's base saw them as insufficiently anti-Obama.

And let's not forget that the tea party movement wasn't just a response to Obama, but also to GOP leadership that was seen as wishy-washy and not firm enough on conservative principles. These numbers suggest a similar environment on the left side of the aisle in the early days of the Trump presidency.