Friday, September 15, 2017


Yesterday I speculated that there might be anti-DACA protests during President Trump's upcoming tax-overhaul publicity tour. I still think that's possible -- but it's probably unlikely. I suspect Joe Scarborough is correct:
[Sean] Hannity, [Steve] Bannon and [Steve] King are about to learn the same lesson that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Jeff Zucker, Mika Brzezinski and I discovered in 2016: With Trump, it is never over. His base will stick with him no matter what — no matter how loudly and how often the other self-styled leaders of that base take to Twitter or talk radio or any other platform to bleat that Trump has betrayed them....

If Trump’s political career is ever brought to an abrupt end, it won’t be because a few right-wing carnival barkers found themselves unable to pressure the president into adopting a policy position....

... that Trump base is not going anywhere now.... Trump’s base is Trump’s base, period....
As Thomas Edsall noted yesterday, Republicans are particularly likely to stick with a politician they like after a deviation from partisan orthodoxy:
Many Republican voters, including self-identified strong conservatives, are ready and willing to shift to the left if they’re told that that’s the direction Trump is moving.

Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope, political scientists at Brigham Young University, reported in their recent paper “Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America,” that many Republican voters are:
malleable to the point of innocence, and self-reported expressions of ideological fealty are quickly abandoned for policies that — once endorsed by a well-known party leader — run contrary to that expressed ideology.
Those most willing to adjust their positions on ten issues ranging from abortion to guns to taxes are firm Republicans, Trump loyalists, self-identified conservatives and low information Republicans.

The Barber-Pope study suggests that for many Republicans partisan identification is more a tribal affiliation than an ideological commitment.
(Which might also explain why Ronald Reagan cultists -- i.e., all Republicans -- forgive the Gipper for legalizing undocumented immigrants, raising taxes, running up huge deficits, and selling arms to Iranian ayatollahs.)

To win this kind of GOP voter loyalty, I think you first have to perform Republicanism effectively -- you need to embrace Jesus and guns and the flag and the military and white farmers and white blue-collar workers and traditional gender roles and the notion that the South really should have won the Civil War. You need to denounce "political correctness" and multiculturalism and professors and big cities and people who buy at Whole Foods and drive Priuses. In defining this dichotomy between good people and evil people, you can add a few personal touches -- well, a lot of personal touches if you're Donald Trump.

Or if you're Kid Rock. I've been mildly obsessed with Kid Rock's possible Senate run, and this is why I think attention is justified: If Barber and Pope are right, Republicanism is primarily performance -- do the act and you win. Trump does a supercharged version of the act -- and so does Kid Rock. I don't know if he can get elected, but he's going to win the primary in a landslide.

But isn't hatred of liberals and Democrats a significant part of the act? Trump is palling around with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Why is he getting away with it?

I think it's because we see Pelosi and Schumer at the White House. They're not pressuring Trump on their turf -- they're seen as supplicants invited to his house. He's not caving to them! He's practicing -- say it with me, boys and girls -- the Art of the Deal!

And if there are any doubts about Trump's ultimate loyalties, he can just do a gaggle with the media, as he did yesterday, and play all the hits: bothsidesism in response to neo-Nazis, climate change denial, Iran-bashing, attacks on Susan Rice for unmasking. Ul.timately, Trump won't cooperate with Democrats on very many issues, but he theoretically could if he continued to beat his chest every day or two in a pleasingly Republican way.

Republicanism: It's largely an act. You can hold the base forever if you put on an effective show.

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