On Monday, a retired Republican appeals court judge in Texas went on Facebook, in disgust, to renounce her affiliation with the GOP after President Trump tweeted that four sitting members of Congress, all women of color, might want to “go back” where they came from — even though they’re all Americans, of course — if they’re not on board with his vision for America. On Tuesday, four Republicans and one former Republican member of the House of Representatives voted with Democrats to rebuke the president for those same words. I’m not serving in Congress anymore, but as a Republican, I had no problem calling out Trump’s Twitter rant for what it was: ugly, offensive, ignorant, anti-American and, yes, racist.
It wasn’t difficult. The go-back-where-you-came-from-and-where-I-think-you-belong trope is something that immigrants and minorities in this country have endured for years. In a world where more Republicans still sincerely thought of our party as the Party of Lincoln, condemning the president’s words should have been a no-brainer, and, in theory, should have been the tipping point where Republicans started hopping off the Trump bandwagon.
But it won’t be.
Uttering that filth on Twitter or in any other forum, directed at congresswomen or anyone else, should eat into Trump’s base of support. It should bother his supporters, the vast majority of whom, I still believe, are not racist and don’t consider the president to be a racist at heart. It should cause some of the people who Trump once said wouldn’t leave him if he shot someone “in the middle of Fifth Avenue” to finally say they’ve had enough. But most of them won’t — just look at the RealClearPolitics polling average, where Trump’s approval rating, 44.6 percent, is right around where it was on the day he took office.
That doesn’t mean he and his party — my party — won’t pay a price. Today, according to RealClearPolitics, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (Calif.) approval rating is at 39.5 percent, lower than Trump’s, but her low approval over time, and Congress’s low approval overall, didn’t stop her party from flipping the House back to her control in 2018, in part because enough voters in the middle were fed up with Trump. I’m not going to predict a Trump loss in 2020 — he’s too wily and Democrats are too prone to self-destruct — but if enough of those voters abandon Trump in key states, it’s possible.
Republican voters aren’t going anywhere, though, because they don’t care. You can see it in polls — he was at 89 percent among Republicans in the latest Economist/YouGov poll — but I don’t need a poll to tell you that. I hear it every day on my radio show. Trump supporters are Fox News watchers and Rush Limbaugh listeners. Mostly what I’ve heard this week from callers is: We don’t care. It wasn’t racist. The media are misreporting his words. Forget about what he says, look at what he’s doing. The Democrats will destroy this country if we put them in charge. HE FIGHTS. That’s what we love about him.
His political base is so angry about what they believe has gone wrong in America that they don’t care about Trump’s faults if he sticks it to whomever they see as their adversaries. They’ll overlook Trump’s nonstop golfing even though they criticized Barack Obama for doing the same when he was president. They’ve conveniently forgotten Trump saying he’d be the most presidential president ever, even though he acts like no president we’ve ever had before. And they won’t entertain the idea that the plainly racist things he says are racist. I’m thinking about voters like the panel of Dallas Republican women who just told CNN that they’re not just tolerating the president’s tweets, they’re in favor. One panelist said she’s “glad” he tweeted what he tweeted. Another panelist said it isn’t Trump, it’s the four members of the “Squad,” the congresswomen who drew Trump’s ire, who deserve blame: “They don’t like white people,” she said. “Come on! They’re racist.”
It’s like Trump has cast a spell on them. He’s giving them a show, making it easier to blame their problems on someone else and making them abandon the values that America is supposed to stand for.
And forget about my former Republican House colleagues — 187 of them voted against the resolution condemning the president because most of them care only about getting reelected. The same rudderless politicians who’ve let Trump give plum jobs to unqualified cronies and run up the deficit are too scared of his base to do anything other than comply. They sold out to him a long time ago, and it’s way too late for his disgraceful tweets to change that. The GOP pledged obedience to a personality instead of allegiance to ideas, and slowly the party and what it stood for are shrinking into nothing. But, hey … at least he fights.