Has Trump finally gone too far, and are some of the biggest wingnuts in Congress going to pay the price in the Midterms? It turns out that that Trump’s praise of Putin and his refusal to say anything disparaging about him while Putin rapes Ukraine may be having a negative impact within his own MAGA base. The polls are reflecting a growing disaffection with Putin among Republicans, and his sparsely-attended rallies may be a reflection of that. YouGov polling for The Economist found that about 80 percent of both Democrats and Republicans side with Ukraine.
Cracks started appearing in the Republican Party’s support of Trump even before Russia invaded Ukraine. But with the position Trump has foolishly taken on the war in general and Putin in particular, those cracks could turn into gaping holes.
The worst of it began in earnest when Mike Pence finally cut the cord with Trump back in February when he said, “President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election.” Since then other Republican leaders have followed. And of course Mitch McConnell hasn’t spoken to Trump since December 2020 – and it is reported that he doesn’t want to speak to him ever again.
Trump’s latest problem stems from the fact that Putin is too evil even for some of the MAGA crowd to love, what with his bombing hospitals and indiscriminately murding women and babies. Trump may have finally picked a Hill too inferior to defend, and his future as the leader of the Republican Party just might die on that hill — unless he thinks of something quickly.
But Trump isn’t just a man who hates to make mistakes, sometimes he doesn’t even notice when he does. Doubling down on stupid is practically a Trump specialty. “Sharpiegate” was a case in point. Instead of admitting that he mistakenly included Alabama as a state where Hurricane Dorian might land, he infamously expanded a weather map of the hurricane with a Sharpie to include Alabama. Had he admitted his mistake the whole thing would have been forgotten long ago. Now it has become a defining moment of proof how fundamentally dishonest he is.
So it is with Putin. For Trump to admit that Putin is evil and stupid would mean he was mistaken about him all along, and Trump never knowingly admits he’s made a mistake. He can’t even do the prudent thing and let it go or change the subject, his ego won’t permit it. So he keeps bringing it up voluntarily, inviting his audience to laugh along with him about how he’s getting bashed for saying Putin is smart.
The problem is, not so many people are laughing. They may have been able to enthusiastically chant to lock Hillary up, but there’s nothing inspiring in the idea of praising Putin’s intellect, let alone his war. Even Tucker Carlson, who has unabashedly hitched his wagon to the Trump star, has taken a lot of criticism for supporting Putin. It may very well be that after all these years Trump has finally found the bottom of his base. And they won’t go any lower than that.
He’s also lost the element of surprise. When Trump came down the escalator to announce his candidacy for president back in 2015, he was new, untried and his message was fresh, however disgusting. Now it’s just the same old Trump spewing the same old crap, and people are starting to change the channel. Who knows, maybe now if Trump shot somebody on Fifth Avenue he would actually lose some votes. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.