Loyalty to Donald Trump is new normal for the Republican Party

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Fealty to Donald Trump is the new Republican normal. Those who cross the boss should be prepared for his wrath and rejection of his backers. The recent results in Alabama and South Carolina tell the story.

In Alabama, Congresswoman Martha Roby was forced into a runoff after she failed to garner a majority of the Republican primary vote. Back during the 2016 campaign, Roby called on candidate Trump to exit the presidential race after the Access Hollywood tapes hit the airwaves. The fact that Roby was a four-term incumbent was not enough to get her past the 50 percent threshold on primary night.

{mosads}In South Carolina, Republicans sent Congressman Mark Sanford packing on Tuesday, just hours after Trump tweeted his disapproval of the state’s one-time governor. The president’s primary day endorsement of state representative Katie Arrington, Sanford’s opponent, likely sealed Sanford’s fate. Sanford was a fiscal conservative, a fan of free markets, and pro-life. But the one thing Sanford wasn’t, which is blindly loyal to the president, mattered most to Trump and his voters.

Trump’s stock within the Republican Party has soared. Back in 2016, it took Trump until April 19 and the New York primary to win an election with an actual majority. The uncertainty that characterized the presidential nominating contests has since disappeared. At the 500-day mark of his presidency, Trump rates as the second most popular president within his own party, holding an 87 percent approval rating.

Only George W. Bush, who walked amidst the World Trade Center’s ruins, surpasses Trump with a 96 percent approval rating. Not John F. Kennedy, not Barack Obama, and not even Ronald Reagan scored that well with their respective party faithful. Trump’s numbers and sway should be chalked up to the bond that he has forged with his supporters, and his ability to both stoke and channel their sentiments. His core is personally invested in him in way that appears almost unparalleled.

The Great Revolt,” a book about the 2016 election authored by Salena Zito and Brad Todd, sheds light on Trump and his base. An Iowa voter is quoted as saying that the “only person that is able to turn me against Trump is Trump.” In northeast Ohio, another voter explains, “To ask me what would extricate me from Trump would be like asking me to remove me from myself, from my family, and from my community.”

Not surprisingly, Trump’s standing within the Republican Party has upended politics as usual, a fact acknowledged by Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks. Confronted by Trump’s take that the media was our enemy, Brooks avoided challenging the president, saying, “I’m not one to challenge President Trump in the hyperbole that he uses to achieve the goals he’s trying to achieve for our country. It might be different from my style. But obviously his style works.” To be sure, Brooks never uttered freedom of the press or the First Amendment.

Instead, those within the Republican Party who confront the president are themselves usually on their way out. Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are heading to the exits. When Corker warned that the GOP was becoming “cult like” in its support of Trump, he was speaking accurately, but being irrelevant. Still, during the 2018 races, Republicans have shown greater respect to Trump the man than deference to his words.

In Alabama, Trump initially backed incumbent Luther Strange over alleged pedophile Roy Moore, with Moore winning the nomination, and then losing in the special election. In Staten Island’s upcoming Republican congressional primary, Trump is supporting incumbent Dan Donovan over Michael Grimm out of fear of Staten Island emerging as Alabama 2.0, and the Democrats flipping a seat come November.

For the record, Grimm is a convicted felon, a former congressman and FBI agent. According to the latest polls, Grimm leads by double digits. Like their president, Republicans are feeling belligerent, and have even less reason to hide it. Can anyone say, “Let’s stick it to the man”?

Lloyd Green was the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 and later served in the U.S. Department of Justice. He is now the managing member of research and analytics firm Ospreylytics.

Tags Barack Obama Bob Corker Congress Donald Trump Election Jeff Flake Luther Strange Mark Sanford Martha Roby Mo Brooks Republicans Roy Moore

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