Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trump's Base is Bolstering G.O.P. Before the Midterms

From Ronald Brownstein, at CNN, "Beating Republicans in November will be harder than Democrats thought":

(CNN) It's become a numbing Washington ritual. Donald Trump shatters a traditional boundary on the exercise of presidential power. Or he uses inflammatory language that stirs racial animosities. Or he's hit by new revelations in the overlapping investigations into his campaign's contacts with foreign governments in 2016 and his own tangled financial and personal affairs before the presidency.

As each of these bombshells detonate, sometimes within hours of each other, congressional Republican leaders then react with little more than a shrug. Even more important, the vast majority of the Republican electoral coalition increasingly responds the same way.

All of these dynamics played out multiple times this past week. Trump shattered boundaries by openly demanding the Department of Justice investigate the ongoing special counsel examination of his campaign and by privately pressuring the US Postal Service to raise rates on Amazon, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns the Washington Post, which Trump considers an enemy. He used George Wallace-like language in describing members of the MS-13 gang as "animals." And he faced the startling revelation that during the 2016 campaign his son Donald Trump Jr., who had earlier convened with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton, also met with emissaries of Middle Eastern governments offering to help in the election.

After all that, Republicans responded this week with the sort of silence usually expected from the crowd at the 18th hole of a golf tournament.

The Trump paradox

The elimination of any distance between Trump and the conventional Republican interests that controlled the party before him has happened so incrementally it can be difficult to discern from day to day. But it remains one of the central political dynamics of 2018. Over the long term, Trump's success at stamping his polarizing brand on the GOP remains a huge electoral gamble for the party because it risks alienating the young, well-educated and diverse groups growing, rather than shrinking, in the electorate.

But in the near-term, the GOP's choice to ally so unequivocally with such a unique president may have the paradoxical effect of producing a much more conventional midterm election than seemed possible earlier this year. And that means for Democrats to secure the gains they seek in November, they will need to overcome the typical challenges they face in a midterm election far more than they expected even only a few months ago.

In both 2010 and 2014, the two midterm elections under Barack Obama, Democrats suffered huge losses. Each time the party faced similar problems. The biggest was a collapse in turnout among young voters, and a smaller, but still significant, decline among minorities. In both 2010 and 2014, the share of the vote cast by young adults 18-29, a strongly Democratic-leaning group, was fully six percentage points lower than in the presidential race just two years earlier, according to exit polls...