Republicans against Trump



“I would vote for a tuna sandwich before I vote for Donald Trump again,” says one Republican on the site that brings together stories of repentant voters

“It is imperative that Joe Biden wins in November,” argues an ad by The Lincoln Project. The organization is a super Political Action Committee (PAC) that has been campaigning in favor of the Democrat and against President Donald Trump.

Until then, nothing new. Super PACs are independent organizations that raise money from individuals and corporations to campaign politically on behalf of whomever they choose. Currently, there are 1.851 committees of this type across all party lines in the United States. It is through them that candidates have access to millionaire corporate and union donations.

What's new about The Lincoln Project is that the committee is anti-Trump and, at the same time, Republican in orientation. More curious is that it was founded by George Conway, a lawyer who was once an ally of Trump and is now called by the president an “absolute failure”. To make the script more novel, George is married to Kellyanne Conway, one of the top White House advisers. As for his wife's opinion of criticism of the president, George has a simple answer. “I don't think she likes it. But I told her I don't like the government. So we're even," said the Republican.

George Conway is determined to overthrow Trump. To accomplish this, the supercommittee intends to focus on pendulum states, which are neither Republican nor Democratic in their majority. A recent poll indicates that Joe Biden has an eighteen-point lead among independent voters.

The strategy of this Super PAC is to produce material, especially TV ads, portraying Trump as a danger to the United States. In a video titled 'Mourning in America', the group says Trump has made America weaker, sicker and poorer. The title makes an inverted analogy with the video 'Morning in America' (Morning in America) from Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign. The reference is calculated to refer voters to a leader who, despite mistakes and low popularity as president , has become a moral fixation of Republicans.

The Lincoln Project also launched a Twitter offensive and quickly gained adherents. Since its creation in December, its profile has gained more than a million followers. The most recent video reached over ten million views. By targeting the president, the group gains free publicity. Annoyed, Trump has dedicated part of his mornings to attacking him on the social network. He calls his members RINO, an acronym for 'Republicans in Name Only'. And the more Trump writes, the better known Super PAC becomes.

The committee is not alone in its struggle to convince other Republicans that Trump needs to be defeated in November. This is yet another group to qualify as part of the 'never trumpers' (Never Trumpistas), a diffuse movement of the Republican and conservative elite that emerged before the 2016 election and splintered soon after. In 2019, the movement was considered closed after failing to convince another Republican candidate to run for president in 2020. With Trump living the most critical moment of his term, the 'Never Trumpers' are starting to gear up again.

Public figures such as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Colin Powell can also be considered non-Trumpists. Some say they don't support him, some say they are undecided and others declare their intention to vote for Joe Biden. Powell and Romney have been especially vocal. Among the military, contrary voices also arise. This is the case of former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who left office due to strong differences with Trump. Recently, the general went public to say that the president intends to divide the country.

Many of those Republicans didn't support Trump in 2016 either, but rejecting an incumbent president is far more symbolic than an underdog candidate. It means disapproval of the management and an attempt to moderate the party, given that Trump pushed it to the fringes more to the right.

Anonymous Republicans work together to warn others about the risk of a second term. “I would vote for a tuna sandwich before I vote for Donald Trump again,” says one Republican on the website that collects stories from repentant voters.

The Republican Party usually has an advantage among people over 65. Trump, for example, beat Hillary Clinton by a 7% margin in that group. Among senior whites, her score was three times higher than the Democrat's. According to the polls, Biden is now capturing the preference of this electorate and almost tying the president in the white share.

In an attempt to signal the segment, Trump ended up wearing down his own image. He praised retirees who took part in a pro-Trump golf cart parade, despite one of them shouting "white power" as he was filmed. The compliment was later deleted from Twitter, but it was too late. The president's name was once again linked with white supremacists.

The number of older people who say they regret it is growing, especially after the president showed little appreciation for lives lost in the pandemic. As is known, COVID-19 is more lethal for the elderly. In addition, unlike the first weeks of the pandemic, 73% of new cases of contagion are happening in the states where Trump won in 2016.

Among evangelical whites, Trump's losses are beginning to register. Only 59% of evangelicals said they would vote for the president, down 10% from polls prior to June's anti-racist protests.

The tide is not the best for re-election. A poll by The New York Times/Siena College points out that Joe Biden has 50% of the voting intentions, while Trump slips at 36%. The former vice president has plenty of room among blacks, women and young people, a set of voters that normally prefer the Democratic Party. But Biden also stands out among men and people over 65, although with a small difference. The Republican still maintains a 1% advantage when it comes to white voters and those between the ages of 50 and 64. The only niches comfortably dominated by the president are all Republicans and very conservative voters.

Trump's reactions to the health and economic crisis generated by the coronavirus were perceived as wrong by the population. Other factors that made him fall in the polls were the crackdown on anti-racist protesters in Lafayette Square ‒ so he could cross it on foot ‒ and his Twitter messages threatening to “shoot the rioters”. Many Republican politicians now balance supporting the president against losing votes among black voters. For Senator Ben Sasse of the state of Nebraska, Trump crossed a line when he used violence against the crowd, simply to walk to a church that had been burned the day before and have his picture taken there. This same opinion is shared by Tim Scott, the only black senator of the Republican Party.

Pessimism about re-election is already taking hold of the republican candidate himself. In an interview with Fox News, Trump said that Joe Biden might be elected. “Some people don't love me,” he confessed. Fox News is the main television channel for the most conservative audience. One of its top presenters, Tucker Carlson, recently claimed that "President Trump may lose this election."

It's hard not to link the perceived dismay with the failed rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The crowd expected by Trump and his campaign organizers did not show up. In a stadium that has a capacity for almost twenty thousand seats, the audience was just over six thousand. Users of the social network TikTok and fans of the South Korean band, K-Pop - most of them teenagers - say they have boycotted the event by purchasing tickets and not attending. But the surroundings of the stadium, for which reservations were not required, were also empty.

As Trump's defeat becomes more likely, an unlikely scenario is raised in the form of rumours. GOP sources told a Fox News journalist that the president is considering not running.

Despite the loss of support among some influential people, Trump has trumps up his sleeve. Already achieved tax cuts, war on immigration, appointment of conservative judges and promise of "law and order" ensure a lot of support from politicians elected in mid-term. These current allies can make a difference in municipalities.

Steve Bannon, to whom many credit the strategy that saved Trump's 2016 campaign, is moving to shift the focus towards China. The far-right marketer's plan is to blame Beijing for the health and economic crisis, again appealing to economic nationalism and all kinds of conspiracy theories. With military tensions rising between the two powers in Southeast Asia, it is not difficult to engage an external incident that mobilizes nationalist sentiment.

The Republican Party itself has not abandoned the president. Despite the countless blunders committed by the Executive in the last four years, the party supported him unconditionally. Both from an institutional and political point of view, it makes no sense to rehearse an independent route at this point. For party leaders, whether or not the saint is made of clay, it is better to go slowly with the litter.

*Solange Reis is a teacher of teacher of Postgraduate Program in International Relations San Tiago Dantas (Unesp/Unicamp/PUC-SP).

Originally published on US political observatory (OPEU)


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