I thought the same thing at first – but no, you aren’t imagining it. Republican Senators have been openly airing their uneasiness about Donald Trump. Mitch McConnell’s remark about waiting to see Trump’s new healthcare plan wasn’t just a one-off; they also voted against giving aid to Saudi Arabia and ridiculed the boneheaded idea of appointing right wing hack Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve. They even voted against Trump’s increase in defense spending, something Republicans don’t normally do.
According to an unnamed Senator quoted by The Hill who is close to Donald Trump, the party’s leadership has gotten more comfortable about criticizing Trump – and not always caring if it leaks to the press. So what’s going on here? Well, that may be the point. It’s not so much that the Republicans have grown a spine, or that they’ve suddenly become as patriotic as they’ve always claimed to be. Instead they’re facing a difficult Senate map in 2020 – in many ways, their own version of what Democrats had to deal with last year. If they have to choose between saving Donald Trump and saving the Senate, it’s going to be the latter.
During the 2016 election, Republicans won praise in the media for occasionally calling out Trump the candidate whenever he said something wildly offensive or inaccurate. They did the bare minimum to show that they still had something resembling human compassion left, and after he won the nomination, that his views didn’t represent theirs. It was only after his election that they began stupidly falling in line in large numbers, fearing a primary challenger to their right.
Being primaried from the right is still a very real possibility for Republican Senators in 2020 – just ask Susan Collins. They just don’t think it seems all too likely, as Donald Trump’s more insane ideas like closing down the border or killing Obamacare with no replacement are ones that his own base will quickly and sorely regret – if those ideas even see the light of day. It’s why the GOP focused the tax scam in 2017, and not building a wall – in hopes of keeping the average registered Republican voter happy and thinking Trump isn’t so bad. Those days are over for the GOP, having lost the House in 2018, and worse yet, they may never come back.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making