Trump’s Given The GOP New Life, And Critics Are Starting To Notice
-By Valerie Miller
As the Congressional confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh descended into a media circus this fall, it appeared that the wheels might be falling off the Trump presidency at the same time. While the conservative Kavanaugh’s confirmation seemed in peril, due to decades-old sexual assault allegations, Trump also faced a growing number of investigations.
Then, something happened. In a move that conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh credits with saving the Kavanaugh confirmation, Trump defended Kavanaugh at a campaign rally by publicly poking holes in the testimony of his accuser.
That move, which brought Trump sharp criticism by Democrats and some wavering Republican senators, also seemed to give Republicans the courage to stand up to the angry opposition. By early October, Kavanaugh was confirmed, with only one Republican voting “present’ – Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.
Every Democratic senator voted “no” on Kavanaugh, with the exception of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who was in the midst of tight re-election campaign in “Trump Country.”
The Party of Trump
The Republican Party, which during the lead up to the 2016 presidential election all but outright rejected Trump, is now rallying around the president. Republican candidates in most close congressional races want Trump to come stump for them.
That has been also true in Nevada. One-time Trump critic, Sen. Dean Heller, has embraced Trump in Heller’s tight re-election bid against one-term Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen.
The move seems like a smart one. Trump is credited with boosting Republican primary candidates over their favored opponents, in some other states such as Florida.
The influence of a “Trump bump” was on full display recently. Just weeks after the confirmation of Kavanaugh, Trump held a massive rally in Kentucky for a congressional candidate in that state. Trump also brought Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on stage for a rock-star like standing ovation in his home state.
For those who have followed conservative fire-brand politics over the years, McConnell had long been criticized for failing to lead his party in a conservative direction. Now, with Trump as president, McConnell is treated like rock star. Rush Limbaugh opined that it was likely the first standing ovation McConnell had ever received in his decades as an elected official.
The standing ovation was a show of appreciation. McConnell had been instrumental not only in Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, but also in “holding out” for the election of the next president during the 2016 race. The senate majority leader promised to wait, and not hold a confirmation hearing for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
McConnell reasoned that the job of picking a nominee should be left to the next president (who would ultimately turn out to be Trump). McConnell had stuck to his promise, even after the media and pundits claimed it was virtually impossible for Trump to win in 2016.
After Trump became president in 2017, he nominated conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat left vacant by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly in February 2016.
Gorsuch had a much smoother path to confirmation than did Kavanaugh, but Gorsuch was also replacing another true conservative in Scalia. Kavanaugh was replacing retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — a conservative who was also a swing vote in many cases. Thus, the stakes were much higher for Democrats during the Kavanaugh nomination.
As a candidate, billionaire businessman Donald Trump promised to make America win so much that the nation would “be sick of winning.” About half the country believed his pledge to “Make America Great Again” and elected him president in November 2016. Now with near-record-low unemployment and a record-high stock market, even a few detractors are grudging acknowledging his successes.
Once predicted to literally destroy the Republican Party with his candidacy, by tanking GOP candidates in the November 2016 general election, quite the opposite was true. The day after Trump’s historic 2016 victory, the visibly-stunned House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) admitted Trump proved his critics wrong and “had coattails.”
Those “coattails” meant that Republicans had won the presidency, and also maintained control of both houses of Congress. Trump’s victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was a bitter pill for Democrats to swallow. At the same time, the idea of having a Republican businessman as president caused the stock market to skyrocket.
On Election Day, November 8, 2016 the Dow Jones Industrials Average was at 18,363. On Oct. 19, 2018, the Dow closed 25,444.34.
Since Trump’s election, the Dow has risen by more than 7,000 points. September’s nationwide unemployment rate dropped to a nearly 50-year low of 3.7 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate hasn’t been that low since 1969. There are more overall jobs available than people searching for jobs.
In September, the White House touted the creation of “almost 4 million jobs created since (the 2016 Trump) election,” and “more Americans are now employed than ever recorded before in our history.”
The impact has also been global. Yahoo Finance, in a Nov. 8, 2017 article, quoted a financial analyst’s one-year analysis of Trump’s election and its impact on global markets: “Torsten Sløk, an economist at Deutsche Bank, circulated a chart … showing that between global bond and stock markets, $28 trillion of value — $26 trillion in global stock markets and $2 trillion in global bonds markets — has been created since Trump’s election win,” Yahoo Finance reported.
“They Can’t Destroy Him”
Nearly two years into Donald Trump presidency, a similar scenario keeps playing out like reality television: Opponents think they have finally brought Trump down. But, wait, he comes back even stronger!
For Republicans, it may be like watching an action movie, ala the Indian Jones series, where the hero faces almost certain doom only to make an improbable escape at the end. The protagonist lives to fight on another day, giving the audience what its wants.
Conversely, for Democrats it may be more like watching masked-slasher Michael Myers continually rise from the dead in the Halloween horror movies.
Rush Limbaugh recently noted, on air, what he calls the “liberal media’s” — and Democrats’ — frustration. The conservative talker said the now-concluding Russian-collusion investigation lead by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, along with the barrage of negative news about Trump – including Trump’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, and hostile leakers inside the Trump Administration itself – are examples of the various things thrown at Trump.
“They can’t destroy him …and it is driving them crazy,” Limbaugh said.
The recent headline was something you might see in a conservative publication or a Fox News website: “Trump’s accomplishments are undeniable.”
But the source was surprising: Yes!, which a progressive, issues-based publication. The media outlet seems like the last place one would find an opinion piece giving Donald Trump credit for his many achievements in less than two years as president.
The author of the piece was Jim Longworth, the host of cable television shows “Triad Today.” Longworth is not a Trump “cheerleader” by any means. Mixed in with his praise of Trump’s accomplishments, Longworth takes some hard shots at Trump, the person: “He is a bully who mocks people he doesn’t like, including disabled persons, POWs, sexual assault victims, and even members of his own cabinet. His extemporaneous remarks at public functions are often rambling, incoherent, and inappropriate.”
But wait, there’s more: In the Yes! article, Longworth also calls Trump “a misogynist who once bragged about being empowered to grab women by their private parts.”
Once “Trump, the man” is separated from “Trump, the president,” however, Longworth praises the job Trump has done. “Like it or not, President Donald Trump has had an extraordinary record of successes, and he hasn’t even been in office for a full two years. Here are just a few of his accomplishments,” he writes in Yes! “We’ve had a 31 percent growth in the U.S. stock market, and, thanks to Trump’s new tax plan and push to bring back jobs from overseas, companies are putting more money into our economy. For example, Apple is now paying an additional $38 million dollars in taxes.”
Internationally, Trump’s achievements include taking steps to “normalize relations with North Korea and (to) avert a potential nuclear conflict,” Longworth lists. “He has negotiated a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico which ends ridiculously high tariffs on U.S. products.”
That new agreement with Mexico and Canada replaced the heavily criticized, Bill Clinton-Era “North American Free Trade Agreement,” or NAFTA
Nevada is a Battleground for the Midterm Elections
Trump’s success has “energized” Republicans about the midterm election, Longworth observed.
Republicans are hoping that “energy” carries over to tight races like Nevada’s battle between Heller and Rosen, which analysts have speculated may decide control of the U.S. Senate. The two were in pretty much a dead heat leading up to Election Day. Rosen had been a few points ahead of Heller but he caught up – and moved slightly ahead – after the Kavanaugh confirmation fight.
Republican voters’ anger over the Democrats handling of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings led to a bounce for many Republican candidates in the polls. Nonetheless, few can predict whether or not that uptick will hold until Election Day.
Nevada is also a battleground state for two seats in the House of Representatives: Republican Danny Tarkanian was neck-in-neck with Democrat Susie Lee for the seat being vacated by Rosen.
Meanwhile, the open House seat, being vacated by scandal-plagued Democrat Rep. Rueben Kihuen, has brought on a battle between two former one-term members of Congress: Democrat Steven Horsford and Republican Cresent Hardy. (The Republican lost the seat to Kihuen in 2016. Horsford had lost the seat Hardy in 2014).
And all roads to continued Republican control of Congress, and the future of the Trump presidency, may run right through Nevada.
Valerie Miller is an award-winning Las Vegas Valley-based journalist. She can be reached at (702) 683-3986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.