Monthly Archives: October 2017

Have We Reached Trump’s Tipping Point?

Even by Trump regime standards, the past several weeks have been unusually tumultuous. First, Trump botched aid to Puerto Rico; then he muffed condolence calls to widows. Now he’s being condemned by two Republican Senators. Have we reached the long-awaited ‘tipping point”? Is this the beginning of the end of the Trump era?

Since Trump took office, Democrats have been waiting for one of two events. Either Trump would mature and begin to act presidential, or his base would desert him. After nine months, it’s clear that Trump is not going to change. (On October 24th, Republican Senator Jeff Flake deplored Trump’s “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior.”)  Given Trump’s inflexibility, are we nearing the point where his base deserts him?

According to the political website 538 ( Trump’s popularity has remained stable for five months. It’s currently at 56.7 percent disapprove and 37.2 percent approve; since May, Trump’s approval ratings have stayed within a band of 54 to 56 percent disapprove and 37 to 39 percent approve. He’s an unpopular President but, based on this metric, his base is sticking with him.

Democrats find Trump so repugnant that’s it’s hard to imagine that any American would support him.  Nonetheless, he’s tightened his grip on most Republican voters.  There are three reasons for this.

The first is that Trump commands the right-wing media.  While the mainstream media (MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post…) has reported adversely on Trump’s behavior, the distinctly right-wing media (Fox, Breitbart…) has been supportive.  New Yorker columnist Elizabeth Drew noted Trump’s political skills: “He can… make use of social media, Fox News, and friendly talk shows to keep [his base] loyal.”

To gauge the gap between left-wing and right-wing media, turn on your TV and use the remote control to switch back and forth between “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC and “Sean Hannity” on Fox News.  They two shows emphasize different topics and have dramatically different perspectives on Trump.

In addition, Republicans no longer trust the mainstream media. In August, The Economist  ( published a poll indicating, “When Republicans were asked whether they trusted Mr Trump more than the New York Times, the Washington Post or CNN, at least 70% sided with the president each time.”

A second reason why Trump has tightened his grip on the Republican base is that he expresses their worldview. (The latest Gallup Poll indicates that 80 percent of Republicans approve of Trump.)  In his classic, “Moral Politics,” University of California professor George Lakoff notes that conservatives and liberals have two vastly different world views; conservatives have a “strict father” worldview and liberals have a “nurturant parent” worldview.  Recently Lakoff observed: “Most Trump supporters have Strict Father morality… They see Trump as bringing America back to their values in a powerful way, making their values respectable and in line with the way the country is being run. Trump’s presidency has given them self-respect. Their self-respect is more important than the details of his policies, even if some of those policies hurt them.”

This worldview chasm is made clear by the difference between Democrats and Republicans on key issues.  Recently Pew Research ( updated their landmark study of American political behavior on the left and right.  On immigration, study participants were asked if immigrants “Strengthen the U.S. with hard work and talents.”  The average participant agreed (65 percent) but no “Country-First Conservatives” agreed (0 percent); they saw immigrants as “a burden.”

Most Republicans see the world so differently from Democrats that they approve of a President whom most Democrats deplore.

There’s a final reason why Trump’s base is loyal: He knows how to tailor his message to make each Republican constituency believe that Trump will deliver their most cherished political objective.  Pew Research divides Republican voters into four segments: Core Conservatives (13 percent), Country First Conservatives (6 percent), Market Skeptics (12 percent), and New Era Enterprisers (11 percent); for a total of 42 percent of the electorate.  Trump has promised Core Conservatives that he will deliver massive tax cuts.  He has promised Country First Conservatives that he will “build the wall.”  (And he has promised conservative evangelical Christians that he will guarantee “religious liberty.”)

The Pew study indicates why Trump has Trump has held onto his base but also suggests his vulnerabilities.  Obviously, at some point he has to deliver on his promises.

In addition, the Pew study indicates that Trump’s aberrant behavior is beginning to wear on Republican voters.  Core Conservatives and Country First Conservatives generally approve of the way that he conducts himself.   In contrast, only 24 percent of Market Skeptics like the way that Trump conducts himself as President; only 32 percent regard him as “even tempered.”  (Only 49 percent of New Era Enterprisers describe Trump as honest.)

The Pew data suggests there is room for Trump’s approval ratings to plummet due to his “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” and his failure to deliver on his key promises.  We’re inching closer to Trump’s tipping point.

Marching with Trump “Through the Valley of the Shadow”

American cultural history offers many images of walking through difficult times: “Going down the road feeling bad,” “You got to walk that lonesome valley,” and Psalm 23, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”   At the moment,  Donald Trump is marching us “through the valley of the shadow.”

To say the least, it’s a nerve-wracking journey. Thanks to Twitter and the mainstream media, daily we’re subjected to Trump’s tantrums.  For many of us this is profoundly disturbing.

On September 15th, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank (  ) wrote that Trump had caused an alarming rise in Milbank’s blood pressure.  Milbank quipped that he was now afflicted with “Trump Hypertensive Unexplained Disorder” (THUD).  In a followup column ( ) Milbank reported that his readers reported a number of THUD-related symptoms: “Disturbed sleep. Anger. Dread. Weight loss. Overeating. Headaches. Fainting. Irregular heartbeat. Chronic neck pain. Depression. Irritable bowel syndrome. Tightness in the chest. Shortness of breath. Teeth grinding. Stomach ulcer. Indigestion. Shingles. Eye twitching. Nausea. Irritability. High blood sugar. Tinnitus. Reduced immunity. Racing pulse. Shaking limbs. Hair loss. Acid reflux. Deteriorating vision. Stroke. Heart attack.”  These comments came from those who disapprove of Trump.  From Trump supporters, Milbank received vitriol: “Hurry up and die already! . . . just see a dr. You know, Dr Kevorkian.”  Milbank concluded, “Trump is causing, or at least aggravating, mental-health problems on both sides.”

Milbank is not alone in this observation.  Health professionals tell me that, since the election, they have seen a dramatic increase in client ailments triggered by the behavior of Donald Trump.  Several factors contribute to this  “THUD epidemic”:

1. Trump is omnipresent in the news.  (He’s far and away the most commonly searched for Google topic.)  Nine months after Trump entered the White House, it’s clear that he wants to dominate the news every day.  To say the least, Donald has an enormous need for attention.

2. A common response to Trump overload is to turn off the news.  But, in the long term, that’s not a satisfactory answer because, whether we like it or not, Trump is President of the United States and has enormous power.  He can affect our lives in many different ways: starting a nuclear war, ignoring the threat of global climate change, mishandling a natural disaster, shutting down a critical governmental service, and on and on.

Trump is marching us “through the valley of the shadow.”  We’ve been thrust into an abusive relationship.

3. Trump is moody and volatile.  From one day to the next, we don’t know what Donald will do.  Occasionally he seems presidential, as when he went to Las Vegas and comforted victims of the terrible shooting.  On many other occasions, Trump acts like a petulant child and lashes out at whomever he believes is disrespecting him.

For many Americans, Donald Trump is a difficult person whom we cannot get away from. In effect, we’re trapped in an abusive relationship.  It’s not surprising that so many of us experience THUD.

What should we do about this?

When a healthcare professional is confronted with evidence of an abusive relationship, they advise the victim, “get out.”  A doctor or therapist will tell the abuse victim to leave the abuser and go somewhere safe.  Indeed, many of us know people who, because of THUD, have left the country.  However, for most of us leaving the US is not an option.

Three options remain.  One is to check out.  Many Americans have absented themselves from all political discussions.  In effect, they are pretending that Trump doesn’t exist or that he cannot affect them.

Another option — popular in Washington — is to pray for intervention.  After Trump was elected, rumors circulated that his family — particularly his daughter, Ivanka — would keep him check.  When this hope proved to be foolhardy, some suggested that the Republican Party “elders” would keep Donald in check — somehow Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would limit Trump’s damage.  Recent months have proved this hope also to be foolhardy.

At the moment, the dominant intervention fantasy involves “the good generals”: Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly (both retired Marine Corps generals).  The notion is that Mattis or Kelly will stop Trump from a catastrophic action caused by a fit of pique; for example, they will keep him from bombing North Korea because Donald feels disrespected by Kim Jong Un.  Nonetheless, it’s obvious Mattis and Kelly have no influence on domestic policy: they haven’t intervened to stop Trump from repealing DACA or rolling back environmental protections.

If direct intervention with Trump seems inconceivable, there remains the possibility of blocking him in Congress.  That is, the notion that in 2018 Democrats will regain control of the House or Senate and use congressional power to check Trump; for example by passing legislation to defend “Dreamers”or to strengthen environmental protections.  This is the most viable remedy for all of us who suffer from “Trump Hypertensive Unexplained Disorder;” work to ensure that Democrats win in 2018.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”  To walk without fear we must take action to block Donald Trump.