It’s an odd year. Oh, you’ve heard that? One thing that’s odd is that Donald Trump has an organized opposition in his own party. There hasn’t been this much mutiny since 1948, when Harry Truman had two Democratic candidates actually running against him on the November ballot: conservative Strom Thurmond, with a Dixiecrat Party label; and liberal Henry Wallace, with a Progressive Party label.
Truman won, anyway, since FDR had built such a huge coalition. But because of the split, Republicans assumed they’d win easily. In fact, that was the election in which the Chicago Tribune embarrassingly ran the headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman” in its early edition.
Following that election, Dwight Eisenhower (“IKE”) became the first Republican president in 20 years. There’s no way anyone in his party was going to decry the famous World War II general when he ran a second time. While there was plenty of opposition to Lyndon Johnson in 1968, he decided not to run, and the party almost healed its wounds by election time.
In 1972, Republicans were once again overjoyed to have the White House, and were firmly behind Richard Nixon. In 1980, Teddy Kennedy was pushed into running against the weakened Jimmy Carter, but his heart was not in it; so he pulled out, and the party came together. In 1984, John Anderson wanted to develop a third-party to challenge the two-party system, but Republicans were infatuated with Reagan, so he gave up months before the GOP convention.
Then there was some discontent with GHW Bush in 1992, leading to his defeat, but his problem was more apathy than outright rebellion. Then the parties were firmly behind their following incumbents: Clinton, Bush, and Obama. It was not until this year that an incumbent has had to deal with mutiny—more than 70 years since the last one.
This year, there are several groups of traditional Republicans who are so upset that Donald Trump has taken over their party that some are even encouraging Republicans to vote for the Democratic candidate, hoping that a defeat for Trump would bring the Republican Party back to its traditional values.
There are two main groups: The Lincoln Project, and Republican Voters Against Trump.
The movement seeks to build a national political operation to oust both the president and his supporters in Congress, with a particular emphasis on persuading white suburban voters who consider themselves true Republicans to break from the president, according to interviews with more than a dozen anti-Trump advisers and allies who are involved in the planning, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
Advisers to the Lincoln Project, which they say has about 30 employees and raised $16.8 million this quarter, will soon expand to include ground operations. They are coordinating over 2,500 volunteers in Michigan and plan to next target Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who they see as vulnerable after his challenger, Jaime Harrison (D), pulled in a staggering $13.9 million since April.
Unlike previous campaigns, such as Carter faced in 1980, the groups are not promoting any candidate from their own party. They are just trying to bring down Trump. In fact, much of their effort has been just “to get under his skin.”
But most of the project’s efforts so far have been centered squarely on Trump — evidenced by their surgical strike ads airing on Fox News in Washington, which are aimed not at persuading disaffected Republicans but simply at needling the president. . .
Two Republican officials who work on House and Senate races said the Lincoln Project and similar groups are more effective at rattling the president than affecting the electoral landscape.
As noted, a second group, Republicans Against Trump, have reached out to individual voters, and their ads highlight their personal opinions, such as this:
“Hi, my name is Josh and I live in North Carolina and I voted for Donald Trump — my bad, fam,” he begins, before explaining that this November will mark the first time “ever, ever” that he will vote for a Democrat. “If Joe Biden drops out and the DNC runs a tomato can, I will vote for the tomato can, because I believe the tomato can will do less harm than our current president.”. . .
The group, which has begun airing testimonials on television and online in North Carolina and Arizona, plans to spend $10 million to $15 million and also go on the air in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and possibly Florida. Their target audience is largely white suburban women, a group that has already begun to move away from Trump.
There are at least two other groups.
Other groups in the anti-Trump wing include Right Side PAC, which is led by Matt Borges, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, and advised by former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, a financier who has become a Trump critic.
And there is 43 Alumni for Biden, formed by officials who worked in the George W. Bush administration.
The Hill notes that there’s also a site called The Bulwark working against Trump.
they know the traditional conservative values of limited government, free markets and global leadership aren’t in this president’s vocabulary. They resent that their philosophical mentor William F. Buckley has been replaced in Trump’s Republican Party by Sean Hannity.
“We can see how his con works,” Charlie Sykes told me, “how he manipulates conservative memes and exploits the worst and darkest elements of the right. We’re the ones calling out his bullshit because we know it’s bullshit.”
Sykes was a popular Wisconsin conservative radio talk show host and author until Trump was elected. He left and wrote a book, “How the Right Lost its Mind.” And he founded The Bulwark.
The Washington Times reports that Never Trumpers are even planning an anti-convention. . .
The “Convention on Founding Principles” is scheduled to coincide with the Republican presidential nominating convention, which is set for Aug. 24–27 at the Spectrum Center arena. . .
As the name of the convention suggests, it is designed to boost support for a GOP agenda that organizers say would return the party to its “founding,” pre-Trump roots.
But the question is, is there a “there” there? That is, for all the noise and fury, will the anti-Trump efforts amount to anything? After all, polls consistently show that Trump has between 80 and 90% approval among Republicans. The Washington Examiner says all you have to do is look at the Republican primaries. Even though Trump ran against no one, he still brought big numbers to the polls.
Trump won the Texas primary with 94.1% of the vote. In 2004, the last time an incumbent Republican president ran for reelection, George W. Bush, a former Texas governor, won the Texas primary with 92.5% of the vote. . .
Winning a higher percentage of the Texas primary vote than a former Texas governor indicates Trump’s power in the party. And having such a large number of Republican votes in an essentially meaningless GOP primary, compared to Democratic votes in a hotly contested and enormously consequential primary, also suggests Republican muscle.
These days, you don’t need popularity, or even approval, to win. As we’ve noted, Trump won with just 31% of registered voters in 2016. At 41%, Trump has 10% more than he needs to win. And it’s all about getting out the vote. Trump has fanaticism on his side, and a pumped-up minority can defeat a majority, any day.