Sheila Markin is a former Assistant US Attorney. She helps people to understand in plain English what is going on in US politics today. Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a post!
Looks like Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is going to be removed for good after two incidents of vandalism by Trump haters wielding pick-axes. The first assailant went to jail. The second assailant was bailed out by the first guy who was IN jail. But I would guess that a GoFundMe page to raise bail for assailant #2 would have been wildly successful. When people hate Trump they really really hate him. The man inspires profound hatred. He is constantly demonizing every group other than his core cult followers. That works for him and the GOP in primaries, but it doesn’t compute in a general election.
We have a better sense of the group of people who are Trump’s people and will stay with him come what may. We’ve endured close to two years of Trump and trends have emerged. Trump has a current disapproval rating of 54% with an approval rating of 41%. The group that clings to him are white, non-college educated voters. Full stop. That’s it. That’s the group. And now that we all know what Trump stands for, we also know that this group is comfortable and even relishes hateful rhetoric attacking groups they despise.
Ohio’s 12th district had a special election Tuesday, August 7. It is a litmus test for the Trump effect even though the Democrat, Danny O’Connor, has made a point of NOT trash talking Trump. This district has been a Republican bastion for decades. Trump won here by 11 points in 2016. But as I write this commentary the morning after, the race is too close to call. Troy Balderson, the Republican, had been tied in the polls with Danny O’Connor, the Democrat in the last days of the race. Danny O’Connor has no business being this close to a win in Republican Ohio’s 12th district. The reason this special election is this close is Trump himself. There is no way to pretend this is not a negative Trump effect. Balderson did not put daylight between himself and Trump, and Balderson did not stop Trump from having a rally last week. Balderson might win, but it should not have been this hard or costly. He is experiencing what other Republicans will face in the general election as longstanding Republican districts get a surge of Democratic energy in the urban and suburban areas where there are college-educated people and women who are pissed as hell.
I believe we will see this jolt of progressive energy repeated in state after state in blue oases in many red states when it comes time for the general election. What started out as Trump’s amazing, magical star power is turning into kryptonite with educated voters and women. Right after Trump had his nasty, hate-spewing rally in Ohio, Danny O’Connor’s numbers nudged up from dead heat to a lead of 1 point. Trump’s presence in Ohio was supposed to enliven the base. Instead it seemed to enliven many voters’ determination to put a check and balance on the president. No matter which candidate wins this special election, Trump and the Republicans have already lost. Because of Trump. As one formerly Republican woman from Franklin County, Ohio, put it when asked how Trump affected her decision: “He’s a jerk. I do not like him.” One man interviewed in a CNN focus group of people who had voted for Trump called him a monster and a bigot and says it was the biggest mistake of his life to have voted for him. When asked what especially changed his thinking about Trump he said it was the separation of families at the border.
Remember King Midas? He was the fairy tale king whose golden touch made him rich because everything he touched turned into gold. The problem was that if he touched people, they turned to gold too. They became frozen golden statues at his touch. They were dead. That was the way Midas killed his daughter, by hugging her, and then he realized what a mistake he had made. Like Midas, Trump seemed to have the golden touch. He ran against all those Republicans and beat them despite and in part because of his vicious rhetoric throughout the campaign. He seemed to have the golden touch when he ran against Hillary, using the same assaultive tactics not to mention engaging in dirty tricks, enlisting the help of the Russians to game the system. And he won. Who could have predicted that result given his mean-spirited nastiness? Unless maybe it was in large part because of that nastiness. Now two years into his administration we are seeing what happens when you are a “jerk”. People turn against you. The magical vitriol that made Trump ascendant in his run for the presidency, is the same evil potion that is destroying him and the Republican Party along with him.
There is a new book out by Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist, with a title that captures this paradox and alludes to the Midas touch, “Whatever Trump Touches, Dies.” It’s Trump’s Republican Party now. And they are going to die. They deserve it. They let Trump happen. They did not fight him on moral grounds or ethical grounds. And they still do not.
No matter who wins in Ohio’s special election, Trump and the Republicans who are left in this miserable party have already lost. It is telling that congressional Republican abandoned Balderson before the results came out. They put distance between themselves and their candidate, claiming Balderson was a weak candidate. Republicans expected he might lose and were hard at work thinking up excuses after pouring millions into this campaign. The winner of this special election is going to be seated for only a few months. He will have to run again and win again in November. Danny O’Connor gave a rousing speech last night. If he does not win this first fight, he will be back for the next round.
Republicans see what’s going on. There is a blue wave coming, thanks to Trump. Democrats can see what’s going on too. We know we have to work hard to get out the vote for the great candidates who are running- and there are many of them- to answer the needs of the people in their districts but also to put a check and balance on this administration.
If Trump had been content to be a TV personality investing in his various con jobs like flaky Trump University and nefarious Russian money laundering, he might have finished his life without becoming the most hated, reviled and soon-to-be exposed, delusional president in the history of our country. But his grandiosity and his avarice got the better of him. Like Midas, he wanted more. And like Midas he and the GOP will end up with much much less. Including the loss of Trump’s star on the walk of fame.