To the average person, Trump’s fights with the NFL, Hollywood, Democrats and the GOP establishment are signs of why his Presidency is a mess and his approval rating is below 40 percent. But this misses the forest for the trees. On the surface few voters like Trump but they like the alternative even less.
This partly explains why the GOP’s failure to move on repealing the ACA has not resulted in donors falling off the party, especially the many, many small donors that have supported the RNC since Trump was nominated. Failure to repeal the ACA is largely a policy failure at a time when cultural issues between big town/small town and establishment/outsider and Middle America/Coastal States dominate.
The GOP’s policy debacle in failing to repeal the ACA is certainly a stain on the party. But the GOP’s failure really did not resonate with voters. Nor did the failed efforts in September in their last ditch effort to replace the ACA. It only mattered to academics, the media, and party elites who howled about it and talked it to death. The rest of America yawned.
What is driving the politics of 2017 is the same thing that drove the election last year, culture. The divided between the “Two Americas” has become a chasm that nobody has seemed able to bridge. Few candidates, other than Trump, recognized this.
The GOP Primary was a disappointment for many people because ideologically conservative voters sided with a charlatan, big city liberal over principled conservatives like Rand Paul. Ironically, it was the Democratic side that featured more policy principled debates but even then the divide between Bernie and Hillary voters represented cultural divides in the party.
Even after Hillary’s defeat at the hands of Trump Democrats continue to play into his hands. His approval ratings might suffer as voters may profess a dislike for the President personally but when it comes to where Democrats stand electorally they are remarkably weak.
On issue after cultural issue it is Democrats that stand out for their stances on the issues, and not in a good way. On illegal immigration, a number of states (Oregon. NY, California) have passed restrictive laws banning local law enforcement from working with federal authorities. Any ideas to the contrary are labelled anti-immigrant or racist. If you belong to the Daily Kos community group, they are dog-whistles for racism.
It is perfectly reasonable for Ed Gillespie and Republicans in Virginia to be making an issue of Ralph Northam’s and Democrats support of sanctuary city policies. Indeed, considering the state of Virginia’s booming economic under a Democratic Governor it would be asking to lose if they didn’t. To the average liberal ads talking about immigrant gans and linking them to Sanctuary City policies are racist but to the average voter they are perfectly reasonable issues to debate. Is it any wonder why Gillespie is even still in contention?
Immigration might be just the most visible issue but on abortion and guns the same dynamic is playing out. Every time a Newton or Las Vegas occurs Democrats try to turn it into a conversation about guns. Yet, the vast majority of gun owners, and even those who don’t own guns, don’t commit mass atrocities or crimes. To them, guns are simply for self-defense and limiting a law abiding citizen’s ability to acquire them endangers their ability to defend themselves.
Likewise, on abortion, the debate over choice vs. the life of the unborn is secondary to a fetus being viable at five months. Abortion to many is a convoluted issue but is it not interesting one’s opinions change when it is their child at stake or when we are debating a fetus able to live outside the womb?
Lastly, the divide between Middle America in the Coasts is far from ideological as it has been viewed in the past. Rather, it has become much more cultural in where the Coasts spit out their values and attempt to ram it down Middle America’s throat through Hollywood, the Internet, Cable TV and so much more. It should not be surprising Middle America fights back by putting its “cultural interests over its economic ones” (paraphrasing liberals here).
Trump’s feuds with the GOP and Democrats actually help Republicans in they can throw off his bad habits but back him on cultural appeals and issues. In turn, if they can notch wins on policy issues they get the best of both worlds (they need a policy win though, still waiting on that one).
Democrats, for all the enthusiasm on their side, seem not able to grasp on cultural issues they remain out of step with Middle America where for the foreseeable future elections will be decided. They better learn fast or 2018 will not be as kind as they hoped.