Are you better off now than you were four years ago? For Republicans, the answer is decidedly “No.”
Consider this startling stat: Dave Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, recently noted that “when President Trump took office in January 2017, there were 241 Republicans in the House. Since then, 115 (48 percent) have either retired, resigned, been defeated, or are retiring in 2020.”
A handful of those 115 were Republicans losing primaries to more Trumpy candidates (like what happened this week in Colorado, when a QAnon fan defeated an incumbent). Most have (or will be) replaced by Democrats. Regardless, it’s bad news for the GOP. Incumbent GOP losses on Trump’s watch have been so bad, Wasserman continued, that they exceed “the attrition rate of Democrats at this point in Obama's first term.” You’ll recall that Obama’s Democrats were “shellacked” to the tune of 63 seats in the 2010 midterms.
But at least Obama had a couple excuses. First, 2012 was a redistricting year in which the GOP controlled most state legislatures, which caused a bunch of Democratic retirements. What is more, Obama (and Pelosi) intentionally sacrificed seats in order to pass the landmark Affordable Care Act. Trump has no similar legislative achievement to justify the attrition. Moreover, Obama didn't go around telling people they’d be “sick and tired of winning” if they elected him.
Things are getting so bad for Donald Trump that, according to a Reuters source, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have to advise Republican Senate candidates to distance themselves from Trump if needed to win election and keep their majority.”
One way to avoid this embarrassing fate (and possibly save Republican seats) would be for Trump to simply drop out of the race. On Sunday, Fox Business Network Charles Gasparino reported that GOP operatives were speculating Trump could drop out if his polls don’t improve.
Even Rush Limbaugh, when discussing Gasparino’s story, was less than unequivocal. Should Trump drop out? “Not at this stage,” Limbaugh said. And journalist and pundit Mickey Kaus, who voted for Trump in 2016 (but who can also read a poll), agrees it’s “a time to bail.”
“The fantasizing about Trump abandoning his attempt at re-election should probably be taken seriously and even egged on—by those of us who voted for him as well as by anonymous ‘GOP operatives’ who probably didn’t,” Kaus writes. “Trump himself is clearly thinking a lot about losing these days, as when he mused, absurdly, that President Joe Biden would have to finish his border wall…”
I don’t think Trump will get out. That would be an example of self-sacrifice. That’s not his style. But the truth is that, even before a pending bloodbath in November, Trump has already shrunk the GOP’s ranks, and, as Ronald Reagan might say, based on the way things are trending for November, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
To mitigate the damage, some Republicans might be forced to throw Trump under the bus. Others, seeing the writing on the wall, might simply feel liberated to do so by choice. Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the latter group, has already begun speaking out against some of Trump’s actions and suffered no blowback.
Once upon a time, this sort of betrayal would have been swiftly punished. But it has become increasingly clear that Trump’s ability to influence and intimidate Republicans has diminished.
Consider, for example, the fact that Trump-endorsed candidates keep losing GOP primary contests. In just the last week or so, a Trump-endorsed candidate for Mark Meadows’ North Carolina House seat lost to a 24-year old, and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, whom Trump called a “disaster for America,” won his primary.
The danger for Trump is that he reaches a tipping point where he becomes politically a dead man walking—when he becomes a joke. It seems like we are rapidly approaching that point where the levee breaks.
But consider how this could play out if Trump reaches his breaking point and decides to seek revenge against his fellow Republicans who, having written him off, try to save their own skin. If he goes after them on Twitter, it would do nothing to attract liberal voters to their cause. But it definitely would depress the votes of Trump’s base. So this would only make their defeats more likely still.
It’s looking increasingly like the GOP could be decimated come November. But at least they got all those Supreme Court Justices, right?
Ever since he descended that escalator, Never Trump conservatives (like yours truly) have warned Republicans that the Faustian bargain they made—conservative judges in exchange for looking the other way on Trump’s sins—wasn’t worth it, in the long run. Now, some of the same people who mocked us as irrelevant sellouts for the last four years are finally starting to feel some buyer’s remorse.
There is mounting evidence that Trump is not only a looming disaster, but also a regrettable mistake. A lot of these people are going to pretend they were never really in bed with Trump—that they didn’t do what everyone saw them do.
Personally, I’m looking forward to watching the walk of shame.