I don’t have much to add about the Trump Administration’s cruel, immoral policy of ripping children from immigrant parents at the border. But the little I have to add is hopeful.
For the first time, we are seeing a significant number of Republicans back away from Trump. And not just establishment Republicans like Laura Bush, whose adjectives (cruel and immoral) I borrowed to describe the sociopathic border policy. The evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics who voted for Trump in overwhelming numbers are also breaking from him. Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and a hardcore Trump supporter, said “I think it’s disgraceful, it’s terrible, to see families ripped apart, and I don’t support that one bit.” (He stops short of blaming Trump, though.) Daniel DiNardo, archbishop for the Galveston-Houston region and head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated that “separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
More broadly, Jonathan Merritt, the son of a former Southern Baptist Convention president, points out that the Southern Baptists are responding to attrition and a recent sexual harassment scandal by moving away from their close identification with the Republican Party and toward a more inclusive politics. This matters not just in connection with the border crisis, but over the long term because, as a Convention insider once said, “As the West goes, so goes the world. As America goes, so goes the West. As Christianity goes, so goes America. As evangelicals go, so goes Christianity. As Southern Baptists go, so go evangelicals.”
What about the base, though? Isn’t that what truly counts? I’ve seen only two polls so far, one conducted by Quinnipiac and one conducted by SSRS. (Nate Silver gives both Quinnipiac and SSRS an A- rating, attributing a very slight Democratic bias to the former and a very slight Republican bias to the latter.) Quinnipiac measured the public at large as 66%-27% against the policy, but has 55% of Republicans supporting it. SSRS obtained nearly identical results for the public at large — 67%-28% against — and found that Trump supporters (as opposed to Republicans) back it. But the margin within the base is only 62%-28%. That’s significantly lower than the base’s support for Trump’s handling of the economy (93%-5%), foreign affairs (90%-5%), foreign trade (87%-7%), health care (74%-10%), and even immigration in general (81%-11%).
And again, more broadly, the aforementioned Nate Silver notes that Trump’s approval rating has dropped in all 50 states since Inauguration Day. Yup, that’s right, even in West Virginia.
So it’s possible — not likely, but possible — that Congressional Republicans will have enough cover to act on principle rather than party loyalty if Trump and crew, who never take responsibility for a mistake, force the House and Senate to right their wrong. Hey, Ted Cruz feels safe enough to step out. If just a few other Republicans do also, it should suffice.
Even so, it would be better for the republic if we threw the cowards out in November. They’ve eased into a Vichy-like collaboration with their new authoritarian overlord, and can’t be counted on to choose principle over party when the real Constitutional crisis arrives — probably after the Mueller report comes out.