The most under-reported story of this election? Republican disunity
November 4, 2016 5 Comments
Good take from Jon Bernstein:
No one can accuse the press of failing to expose Donald Trump’s weaknesses in the 2016 campaign. The sexual-assault accusations, the lewd and cruel comments, the bullying, the bigotry, the tax dodges, the Trump University shenanigans, the failure to pay contractors, the bankruptcies, the ignorance of government and issues, the kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, the serial falsehoods — all those things and more have been reported on, extensively.
The question is why the sum of all these parts has seemed to fail to make a cumulative impact on many voters. Maybe it was because he hasn’t been judged by the standards for normal presidential candidates, since he is so far from being a normal presidential candidate.
But among all the explanations, could it be that something was lost in the waves of evidence on how unfit he is to be president of the United States? Maybe those stories kept swamping one central story: The sheer depth and extent of the opposition to him in the Republican Party.
This opposition begins at the top with two former Republican presidents and the most recent Republican presidential nominee — George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. Then there are the dozens of Republican former office-holders and officials who are supporting Hillary Clinton. Another set of dissidents includes several sitting senators and governors who won’t back Clinton, but won’t vote for Trump either. Here are three examples among many. Ohio Governor John Kasich wrote in John McCain’s name on his early ballot. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said he will write in another Republican’s name. And in Arizona, Senator Jeff Flake said he may write in Evan McMullin, the independent candidate who isn’t on the ballot there.
Republican disunity is present at every level of the party. A perfect example is in Idaho, where a newspaper surveyed state legislative candidates. Only 15 of the 45 Republicans asked said they would vote for Trump, and not a single one gave a strong positive answer.
That’s typical of the nationwide picture. Political scientist Boris Shor reports that only 5 percent — 5 percent! — of Republican state legislators have endorsed Trump, while Hillary Clinton is backed by 73 percent of Democratic state legislators across the country…
Cable news networks, in particular, have minimized the extent of the elite Republican split. [emphases mine] CNN, for example, hired several Trump surrogates, rather than depending on its usual cadre of Republican pundits, many of whom are skeptical of Trump or are opposed to him. Even as these networks revel in the unique spectacle that is Trump, they maintain an illusion by sticking to their regular format, which presents the race through the standard Democrats-vs.-Republicans lens. What they in fact showed was a Democrats-vs.-Trump story that left out the considerable conflict within the Republican Party.
At most, the Republican defections have been reported episodically, and indeed they are less likely to grab the interest of most voters than the more salacious or shocking items about the candidate.
This imbalance has meant that the signal sent by the GOP opposition has been muffled, not amplified. Even if Republican politicians and other party actors are practically doing back flips to tell voters not to support so seriously flawed a candidate, these actors are marginalized and rarely appear on center stage.