Obeidallah: GOP base largely aligned with Trump, out of step with party elders
Will is right that GOP is 'not my party,' Obeidallah says. So what comes next?
Donald Trump loves to brag that “millions and millions of people have come to the Republican Party” because of his campaign. Like many of Trump’s claims, that one appears be questionable, according to Politico’s analysis of primary voting data.
But one thing is demonstrably true: Trump is driving Republicans out of the GOP. On Friday, well-known conservative commentator George Will announced he was ditching the GOP to become “an unaffiliated voter” because he did not believe the Trump-headed GOP represented his views. Will went even further in his statements, urging his fellow conservatives to “make sure” Trump loses this election. The question now is: how many more Republicans will leave the party by November?
Will is far from alone in setting aside his GOP identification, at least through November’s election. Former state Rep. David Ramadan of Virginia, who supported Ted Cruz in the primary, stated recently on my SiriusXM radio show that he would not identify as a Republican as long as Trump remains either the presumptive or official GOP nominee.
In fact, over the last few weeks we have seen a parade of high-profile Republicans distancing themselves from Trump in various ways. On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the first African American woman ever elected to Congress as a Republican, announced she would not attend the GOP convention and was actually giving up her place as a Republican delegate.
Love, who still will not commit to voting for Trump in November, joins other big name Republicans who have said they will not attend the July convention, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and John McCain. It’s simply jaw-dropping that multiple former Republican presidents and presidential nominees all refuse to stand up as part of the coronation of Trump as the GOP stander-bearer.
And more Republicans are going further, not just refusing to support Trump but also publicly endorsing Hillary Clinton. Just this past weekend, Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson – who served under George W. Bush – declared that he would be voting for Hillary Clinton, noting that “a Trump presidency is unthinkable.” Paulson added, “To my Republican friends: I know I’m not alone.”
He’s right. In the past few days other Republicans have made similar statements endorsing Clinton, including Richard Armitrage, who served in the State and Defense Departments under George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Another is Brent Scowcroft, who served as a top national security adviser for Republican presidents dating back to Gerald Ford.
These are principled stands by people of conscience. But it’s also their recognition of the reality that the Republican Party these people know and love is gone – at least for now. George Will said as much upon declaring his departure: “This is not my party.”
The truth is that it hasn’t been Will’s party for a long time. Trump didn’t persuade the GOP base to embrace his extreme and at times bigoted views – he didn’t have to. Those views match up well with what the rank and file of today’s Republican Party already believes.
For example, nearly 70 percent of Republicans support Trump’s ban on Muslims coming to the United States. On immigration, 70 percent of Republicans support building a wall along the Mexican border and a 2015 CNN poll found that 63 percent of Republicans support deporting all of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants – both positions Trump has vocally championed during his campaign.
Trump and the majority of the GOP are even on the same page on the issue of Trump’s calling federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, a “Mexican” and demanding he step down as the judge in the Trump University lawsuit. While 51 percent of Americans overall found Trump’s statement that Curiel’s Hispanic heritage was “an absolute conflict” was “racist,” only 22 percent of Republicans agreed.
True, Paul Ryan dubbed Trump’s remarks on Curiel as the “textbook definition” of a racist comment, and he has slammed Trump’s Muslim ban. According to polling data, however, less than a quarter of Republicans share Ryan’s views.
Win or lose, Trump will come and go – but his views truly represent a solid majority of today’s Republican Party. The bigger question for Republicans like Rep. Love, Romney, Paulson, and others is: do they try to change the GOP from within or is time for them to find a new political party?
Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show,” a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.