We are just under 100 days from the Nov. 6 midterms, and Republicans are in much better shape than most prognosticators would have imagined even six months ago, much less than at the 100-day mark of President Donald Trump's tenure.
The traditional post-Reagan GOP is not what it usually is. Currently it is the minority partner in a coalition government with the president — a “party of one” with a fervent following in the tens of millions. But that “party of one” has a number of significant accomplishments while also acting as a giant wrecking ball on assumptions, standards, unwritten rules and codes of conduct.
Many of those unwritten rules are better off demolished — or at least left naked in the public square — including, especially, the overwhelming liberal bias in legacy media, save for Fox News. Twitter feeds have become the best indicator of what the members of the media actually think. The collective mask hasn’t just slipped, it’s been ripped off.
The president’s brand of political hardball upsets many in the GOP, even unbalancing more than a few. “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is real. The president has, however, surrounded himself with superb Cabinet members, especially on matters of national security.
His commitment to originalist judges and a sizable military rebuild are the two most consequential aspects of his tenure. The economy is cooking, and while deficits have risen, the stimulus of deep and broad tax cuts is just now kicking in, with a promise of a long stretch of economic growth above 3 percent needed to bring many of the country’s poorest into the middle class. It’s true that tariffs are dragging on this economic liftoff, but they are better imposed at the beginning of a boom than at the end of one. And while lowering trade tensions with our allies is a necessity, going a few rounds with China on its systemic corruption and violation of fair trade norms is overdue (as is candor about their aggressions in the South China Sea and in cyberspace).
This president talks — and tweets — loudly, and often to the confusion of his home audience, but he carries and has used the very biggest of sticks. When the U.S. military pummeled Russian mercenaries in Syria, Moscow got the clearest message anyone can get anywhere. The Iranians will be treated to the same if they challenge an American vessel at sea or critical infrastructure at home. Russians meddle again with our elections at their genuine peril.
This coalition hasn’t been easy, but the GOP will be fine. But what Trump has done to the Democrats and the establishment media won’t be undone for a long time. He has radicalized both into engines of extremist rhetoric and policy. They will blame Trump, of course, for their outrage and sputtering, and he deserves a lot of the blame (or credit, depending on your point of view). Trump intentionally incites his opponents with mockery and disdain. So did Barack Obama. So did all of the legions of George W. Bush opponents when politics began going off the rails.
So here’s the question facing the voters this fall: Do they vote to ratchet up this culture of conflict and chaos, or to return Republican legislative majorities that have figured out how to work with this most unusual of presidents?
Electing Democrats to a majority in the House or the Senate at the height of the party’s lurch left would be a disaster: Impeachment, demands for massive income tax hikes and the effort to abolish ICE would follow, while also throwing the military rebuild into reverse and the economy into paralysis because of the inability of business to predict the future with anything like certainty. A radicalized Democratic Party puffed by a Trump-loathing Manhattan-Beltway elite wouldn’t bring us a political environment as fraught as 1861 or even 1968, but the Clinton impeachment and the Watergate scandal eras are fair parallels to the atmosphere that would follow if Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Calif., returns to power or Sen. Chuck Schumer, N.Y., gets his wish to run the Senate.
So even if you loathe the president, vote Republican. The downside of Democratic majorities in either house of Congress is so much larger than another two years like the last two. Both 2017 and 2018 have been polarizing and stressful for sure, but very productive for national security and economic vitality. Are most voters going to chose venting over their pocketbooks and their security? I hope not.
Hugh Hewitt hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is author of “The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority.”