Here's how Trump's GOP is solidifying its alienation of college educated white voters

The Right Wing

Robert Mueller's redacted Russia report was frankly too thorough, stunning, and damning to reduce down to any one singular conclusion. But the response to Mueller’s opus on Capitol Hill did make one takeaway crystal clear: While Democrats are grappling with how to move forward given the depraved portrait Mueller painted of Donald Trump, Republicans have entirely cemented their place in history as a pack of servile lap dogs, though nowhere near as cute or cuddly.

Unless I missed something, with the one exception of Sen. Mitt Romney declaring himself “sickened” by the revelations, Republicans either bit their tongues or went ahead and sacrificed any shred of dignity they had left at the alter of their 2020 reelection. Witness Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who will be vying next year to continue his servitude as a useless Trump minion.

Cornyn, once again proving, there's absolutely nothing Trump can do that's too gross, unpresidential, or even treasonous that Republicans won't give him cover. What that means is that every GOP lawmaker fighting for reelection next year has affixed their fate to Trump—a man who deeply believes that some 60 percent of the electorate doesn't matter and is in fact worthy of derision.

In addition, Trump has now surrounded himself with people who either aren't smart enough to fake caring about that 60 percent or simply don't care. No single person has made that more clear than one of Trump's newest administration additions, Attorney General William Barr. Just two months ago when Barr was confirmed to Trump’s cabinet, he commanded a decent amount of respect inside the Beltway, with many mainstream pundits and legal analysts willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in his new capacity. Yet in the last several weeks Barr has managed to trash his reputation entirely based on his systematic bastardization of the once-pristine Mueller report.

If Barr had made any effort whatsoever at appearing to be an honest broker, he might have actually been able to serve as a bridge for the very narrow but critical slice of the population that had been reserving final judgment on Trump until seeing the special counsel's findings. But by proving himself to be such a nakedly partisan hatchet man so thoroughly and so quickly, Barr is now a bridge to nowhere. His only remaining function is soothing Trump while pumping up his base into a conspiratorial frenzy.

Barr’s rapid decomposition is just the latest, albeit acute, example of the Republican rot that has hollowed out the core of whatever remained of the GOP when Trump assumed control of it. But while many Republican lawmakers tell themselves they are simply playing a cagey political game, they are in fact reinforcing the disaffection of college educated white voters. As Ronald Brownstein noted in an Atlantic piece, by turning a blind eye on 400-page report detailing Trump’s completely indefensible behavior, Republicans will perpetuate the trend of suburban flight from their party that began in 2016.

The Mueller findings—particularly around Trump’s systematic efforts to block the inquiry itself—and the Republican reaction may exert the most influence on that third group. A principal reason Trump’s approval rating is lower than might be expected, given the strength of the economy, is that many of those college-educated white voters who are thriving economically view him as personally unfit for the presidency in terms of judgment, temperament, and morals. In the midterm elections last year, they expressed that unease by moving in unprecedented numbers for Democratic congressional candidates and many statewide Democratic candidates, dashing the hope of Republican strategists who thought they would differentiate between their party and the president.

Mueller’s report aims directly at the anxieties these voters express about Trump and his Republican defenders. Many of these college-educated whites are traditionally center-right voters who may agree with key aspects of Trump’s agenda, such as his success in cutting taxes. But the lying, belligerence, scheming, and disregard for the law that Mueller cataloged in Trump’s effort to block his inquiry speak directly to the greatest doubts these voters have expressed about the president. The report validates the concerns of anyone who feared how Trump would wield presidential power—with a solipsistic elevation of his personal interest over any other concern, and with an utter disregard for limits of law, much less morality.

Issue by issue, policy by policy, transgression by transgression, GOP lawmakers have moved from occasional Trump detractors to consummate Trump enablers and defenders. Their active denial of the truisms memorialized in Mueller’s report has completed their party’s evolution to total, undeniable, and indeed eager complicity in Trump’s wicked scheme. For all those voters who were driven to the ballot box in 2018 by the near singular motivation of putting a check on Trump, the GOP has both validated their vote and ensured they will return to the voting booth in 2020 with steeled resolve.

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