President Donald Trump has been in office for just under four months — and there’s already serious talk that his presidency may not survive four years.
(This column, by the way, was written after former FBI Director James Comey’s memo leaked about Trump asking him to kill the Russia probe, but probably before another scandal rocked the White House).
The latest PPP polling shows a plurality of voters, 48 percent to 41 percent, support impeaching Trump.
While esteemed lawyers, most notably those at the Brookings Institute’s Lawfare blog, have outlined grounds for impeachment, the fact is that it is always a political process. (How else could we explain Bill Clinton getting impeached for lying about oral sex?)
Republicans control both houses of Congress, so the focus has rightly been on where members stand. Cracks are beginning to show, with U.S. House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) demanding FBI documents on Trump and Comey and other key Republicans like U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) expressing openness to appointing a special prosecutor.
But most political observers believe that Republicans in Congress will dally in hopes that the storm passes because of one key reason: Trump still has the GOP base.
His job approval rating has plummeted to 38 percent, but he’s still at a whopping 84 percent with Republicans, according to Gallup. And those are the voters Republican lawmakers — most of whom represent safe seats — are most interested in appeasing.
That also helps explain why the right-wing media bubble of Fox News, Breitbart, Infowars, etc. keeps stoically defending Trump and trying to deflect with daily doses of outrage and conspiracy theories.
No matter what the president does, I doubt Trump diehards and hardcore Republican partisans will ever break against him in large numbers. Just two months before Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974, only scant plurality, 44 percent to 41 percent, supported his removal from office. Partisanship is a hell of a drug.
But what I’m curious about is how this is all going down with soft Trump supporters, which is not an easily identified group. It doesn’t really help to look at how he’s polling with independents — which, it should be noted, is an atrocious 35 percent.
Indies are a hodgepodge. There are hard Dem and GOP partisans who like the freethinker image that declaring yourself to be an independent conveys. There’s the chin-stroking “both sides” brigade, which really only consists of TV pundits and jaded government veterans. In my 15 years of interviewing voters (i.e. Real Americans), I’m not sure I’ve actually met someone who espouses that philosophy.
Then there are low-information voters who are all over the place on the ideological spectrum and vote (however infrequently) based on personality and emotion. This is the subset, I believe, that proved decisive for Trump, at least with the 70,000 voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that put him over the top in the Electoral College.
These are not political junkies, so I don’t think they’re enveloped in the right-wing media bubble. They’re generally not obsessively watching Fox News and their Facebook feeds are more likely filled with normal stuff, like sports and their friends’ babies.
So let’s say you like Trump. You thought he’d bring an outsider businessman perspective to the White House and drain the swamp. Maybe you liked some of his bold ideas, like building the wall.
What are you thinking right now about a president who can’t seem to get anything done? Does he seem like just another typical politician? Sure, the media are awful and are being unfair. But wasn’t he supposed to change everything in Washington?
I wouldn’t be surprised if these soft Trump supporters are starting to sour on the president. Some of them will definitely stick with him, because he’s still better than smug liberal elites. Some of them might very well flip and vote Democratic in 2018, especially if they’re directly impacted by GOP health care cuts. And plenty of them probably won’t vote next time.
There doesn’t appear to be a lot of strategy coming out of the Oval Office these days, as the president seems to constantly light things on fire. But trying to keep some of his less-committed supporters, not just the hardliners, would seem important.
And if he doesn’t, that seems like fertile ground for enterprising Democrats to plow.
Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at SusanJDemas.com. Follow her on Twitter here.