One out of eight Trump voters are having second thoughts about their electoral choice, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. That’s not particularly surprising, as voters often get buyers remorse early into a new president’s term. President Obama’s numbers saw a similar dip, so this poll isn’t necessarily a harbinger of a major collapse of Trump’s core support.
Longtime NeverTrumper David French at National Review has written a piece that provides some insight into why Trump voters remain loyal, even in the face of repeated political humiliations. The bottom line is that however flawed their guy may be, Trump fans see the president as far better than the alternative. But French makes an insightful case as to why that may not be true.
“Stop Talking about Hillary Clinton and Start Thinking about Jimmy Carter,” uses the 1976 election to paint the Trump presidency as a pyrrhic victory that will do great damage to long-term Republican aspirations.
“With the benefit of hindsight, how many Democrats are glad that Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in 1976?” he asks. The abject failure of the Carter administration led to twelve years of Republican dominance, which, ideologically speaking, carries over into the Clinton administration, too:
After Carter’s narrow victory, Republicans won three consecutive landslides. Democrats, stung by defeat after defeat, kept tacking right in national politics — culminating in a Clinton presidency that in many respects was to the right of both national parties today. Can anyone imagine a crime bill such as the Clinton-era crime bill passing today? Is anyone even trying to balance the budget, much less create a surplus? With the collapse of Obamacare repeal, is there any reform on the horizon comparable to Clinton’s welfare reform? Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and implemented the now-hated “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military.
An irony that French doesn’t note is that while Carter’s failure pushed Clinton to the right, Trump is not anywhere near as reliably conservative as Carter was liberal. If the Republican Party has been consistent on any issue over the years, it has been unflagging in its support for free markets and free trade. Yet now Trump has transformed the Party of Reagan into a party of protectionism, tariffs, and trade wars. Already, the GOP has demonstrated an unsettling willingness to jettison core principles in order to elect someone, anyone, who claims to be a Repulican.
Yes, but what about the Supreme Court?
At the same time, French’s analysis ignores the fact that a second Clinton administration would have picked someone to replace Antonin Scalia who would have fundamentally shifted the Supreme Court to the left. For all of Trump’s false starts and dropped balls, his decision to appoint Neil Gorsuch will have a lasting conservative impact. Even if he were to be impeached and booted from office, Trump has already done something significant to advance the conservative agenda.
Ideological purity has contributed to a string of Republican presidential losses, and it would be hard to argue that such losses were productive for the GOP. Conservatives who stayed home because of their unwillingness to support less-than-super-conservative Republicans like Bob Dole, John McCain, or Mitt Romney ended up handing power to presidents pursuing leftist agendas. These presidents have done lasting damage. Perhaps Trump is the catalyst for the creation of Democratic Reagan. But would that hypothetical really be worth handing the White House to Hillary?