In the wake of the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the financial crisis, President Bush was broadly unpopular. American troops were coming home in body bags with no end in sight and no way to measure victory. American citizens were called refugees in their own country and dying from the failed White House response to a disaster. The economy was about to collapse as a result of insufficient Wall Street oversight.
Heading into the 2008 election, Republicans were not just worried over losing the White House, they were worried about being completely run out of Washington. After suffering historic losses in the midterms, there was a common question asked among reporters and politicos inside the Beltway. How can Republicans stop the hemorrhaging? The answer was they could not. Democrats took additional seats in the House, won the Senate, and recaptured the White House with Barack Obama.
Heading into the 2020 election, Republicans find themselves in a similar conundrum. American troops are dying from the conflict in Afghanistan. American citizens are losing their lives thanks to the failed White House response to the coronavirus crisis. The economy is left in shambles with severe unemployment and an uncertain road ahead to recovery.
Before even adding external factors like the protests around the country, Republicans have to deal with such a historic drag at the top of the party ticket. Reporters and politicos are once again asking the same question. How can Republicans stop the hemorrhaging? The answer is to run away from the incumbent. But that will not work this time since Republicans in Congress have inextricably bound themselves with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE.
For almost four years, the president has humiliated his detractors. He has forced them out of the party and sends a strong message to Republicans showing any semblance of independence. Trump came into the party like the corporate raiders of the 1980s with a hostile takeover. He has remade the party into his own image. He has employed his sycophants, destroyed anyone with the ounce of political courage to stand up to his abuses, and empowered those who pledged allegiance to him and him alone.
If Republicans run from Trump in their primaries, he has proven over and over that he will risk sinking their races to settle the score. If Republicans refuse to protect him and defend his outbursts, it can be devastating for their political careers. This means the only option for many in the party is to stick with him no matter what and to suffer the consequences.
The philosophy of Trump revolves around political fireworks and personal interests. With the prospects of Republicans tied to his odds and, without a foil as polarizing as Hillary Clinton, it becomes that much more difficult for the president to use the same tactics that worked in the 2016 election. Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE is trusted and liked by voters on both sides of the aisle. Biden is shielded from much of the Trump playbook as an older white man.
Biden has a critical advantage. Trump did not win because people wanted him to be president. Trump won because they never wanted Clinton to be president. That luck of the draw will not work this time around. Trump will not get the same benefit of the doubt from voters due to his actions. How can Republicans stop the hemorrhaging? The answer is they cannot.
Republicans created Trump and enabled him to ruin the party they love. All they can do is hope and pray that he does not torch their entire party and take his base with him on his way out of Washington. As Trump goes, so do Republicans, and it looks like they are going down in flames.
Michael Starr Hopkins is the founder of Northern Starr Strategies and the host of “The Starr Report” podcast. Follow his updates @TheOnlyHonest.