|Artist's rendition of the 2020 Republican primary season.|
“Mr. Trump has strained relations with a lot of people these days — members of his own party in Congress, the 55-plus percent of Americans who say they disapprove of his performance, his attorney general, his recently ousted communications director and chief of staff. But through all the drama and dismay, one group has never really wavered: the leaders of the conservative movement.As I mentioned the other day, orthodox v. evangelical conservatism is standard-issue movement Republican politics. The tension between the two lies at the heart of the Southern Strategy, and every other bit of Republican chicanery designed to convince the rubes to slit their own throats in the name of
This is no accident. Mr. Trump and members of his administration have spent their first six months in office cultivating and strengthening ties to the movement’s key groups and players with a level of attention and care that stands out for a White House that often struggles with the most elementary tasks of politics and governing.
Their outreach extends to groups across the ideological spectrum — small government, tax-averse Tea Party followers; gun owners; abortion opponents; evangelical Christians and other culturally traditional voters. And it reflects the importance that Mr. Trump and his aides have placed on the movement politics of the right, which they recognize as the one base of support they cannot afford to alienate since conservatives, according to Gallup, are 36 percent of the electorate.
“You want the structures that deliver people, votes and enthusiasm — and he understands that,” said Grover Norquist, the veteran anti-tax activist who has been working with White House officials as they develop a tax legislation package.
Despite his failure to push any of his major agenda items like getting the Affordable Care Act repeal through Congress, the president has remained largely insulated from conservative backlash. His approval rating among conservative Republicans nationally is 89 percent, according to Gallup — almost exactly what it was on Inauguration Day.
Republican strategists who have been looking at private polling in states where Mr. Trump won in November say he continues to outperform his national average among right-leaning voters.
“If you’re a conservative Republican voter, who are you more likely to blame, Trump or Mitch McConnell?” asked Frank Cannon, a Republican who advises conservative groups and candidates. “I think that question answers itself.”
Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor who was a pollster and strategist for conservative causes for two decades before joining the Trump campaign last summer, said the goal of the administration has been to bring the movement inside after years in the political wilderness.
“So many of them look at this administration as a rescue mission years in the making,” she said. "It’s not just about policy but respect. And they just haven’t felt respected.”
Every Friday afternoon the White House sends an email to movement leaders called “The Trumpet,” which lists the latest events and achievements that conservatives might find of interest and asks for their help in promoting the president’s policies.
“Please publicly push for tax reform that is simpler and fairer, that provides middle-class tax relief,” one email implored last month.
There are small Oval Office gatherings, dinners with the president at the White House, regular strategy sessions with his senior staff, meetings with Vice President Mike Pence in his office and at his Naval Observatory residence.
Mr. Trump does not spare the hyperbole.”
But the evangelical side is winning out, as liberals always knew they would, because there’s no stopping an army of glassy-eyed zealots once you’ve funneled billions of dollars into their war chest for a generation or two. Especially after they’ve managed to elect* one of their own as the Leader Of The Free World.
“Trump might have frosty relations with the Republican Party, but he is, and will continue to be, an ideological Republican for as long as he's in the White House. I keep telling you the reasons: Fox News has colonized his brain; he loves fighting, and Fox News/interest-group Republicanism is about perpetual combat; and, of course, rank-and-file wingnuts give him the love for which he has junkie cravings.Make no mistake: this debate is like arguing over who’s the smartest kind in remedial school. But as long as Trump can continue to convince the thought leaders of the conservative hate brigade that their movement is being failed by old guard Republicans and not by the Keystone Cops that make up his administration, he can continue to drink McConnell and Ryan’s milkshake for as long as he damned well pleases. And as long as McConnell and Ryan’s bucket list of bullshit remains unfulfilled, there’s not a damned thing they can really do about it, or him.
Think of the Republican Party as the Catholic Church – it reserves to itself the right to manage the faith of believers. Trump is more of an evangelical – he has a personal relationship with wingnuttery. He doesn't need to practice this through an old-line church. But he still fervently professes the faith.”
If Trump doesn’t decide to run for reelection as an independent in 2020, I’ll be very surprised.