How Republicans Can Win When Trump Is Immensely Unpopular

America is being brought into the Trump era, kicking and screaming. Soon-to-be President Donald Trump has the lowest favorability rating ever measured in modern polling of any incoming POTUS.

According to a new Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans have a negative view of Trump, making him the only president-elect of the four most recent presidents-elect whose unfavorable rating outweighs his favorable score.

Of the 1,032 adults polled across the U.S. from Jan. 4 through Jan 8, 40 percent had a favorable view of Trump compared to President Obama, who enjoyed a 78 percent rating ahead of his inauguration.

George W. Bush meanwhile held a 62 percent favorability rating and Bill Clinton a 66 percent rating.

Much of the tantrum is coming from the GOP, although you won’t find many protesting on Friday. Many in Congress just can’t “fall in love” with Trump (read Jonah Goldberg‘s take on “emotional correctness” to get the full picture). I suggest, however, that it’s possible for those who don’t love Trump but find themselves in his party to prosper and learn the ways of Trumpism without submitting to it.

For the first time in nearly 100 years, Republicans control the White House, both houses of Congress, most of the individual state governorships and state houses. I mean, talk about running the table, the GOP should be able to practically rewrite the Constitution, right?

But Trump is no rubber-stamp. We don’t know what he’ll do with Republican legislation that he doesn’t like. This isn’t business, where the CEO can say “do this, but not that.” If legislation reaches his desk, he either signs it or vetoes it. All the tweeting in the world won’t change the limitations of the executive office.

And despite Trump’s crowing about how he filled arenas, and how devoted his fans are, he’s deeply unpopular. So how do Republicans win, especially in Congress?

I think there are a few simple rules here (like 6), that if followed, will keep the GOP in power, and allow Trump to be Trump. Remember, Trump connects with uninformed voters. Anyone who knows much about policy, governance, and economics isn’t his audience. Keep that in mind.

1. Don’t defend Trump when he blunders. Just let him do it. Sometimes these blunders are actually cover for things Trump doesn’t want in the news cycle. He’s brilliant at baiting them, so let him.

2. Allow the people Trump nominated to learn their jobs and do them. The most encouraging thing about Trump, as president, is the crew he’s brought in to run the government. Tillerson, Sessions, Mattis, DeVos, Haley, Pruitt, Perry, Kelly, Pompeo, Zinke. All good people, although Tillerson is a bit of a wildcard. Let the Democrats be the aggressors in the confirmation hearings, and let Trump do the defending.

3. Stick it to the Democrats on the Supreme Court. Kill the filibuster. Reid would have done it. Shove it down their throats, and do it quickly because Trump may waver if he thinks he doesn’t have enough support for a SCOTUS pick. Sticking it to the Democrats is very popular among Trump’s core supporters.

4. Lead on Obamacare. Let Trump have his tweets and interviews, but Speaker Ryan and the GOP leadership need to lead on health care. Don’t let Trump strip it down too much. Don’t be scared of his veto or his tweets. He’s more unpopular than many in Congress, and they can only lose by watering down the full repeal and replace of the ACA. If you screw up Obamacare, you won’t get re-elected. (Really, important, that.)

5. Don’t back down on Russia. It’s Trump’s prerogative to be friends with Putin if he wants to. Obama tried and got played–even though now he wants to make it look like he stood up to Russia (he didn’t). But the Russians are not our friends, and any potential quid pro quo needs to be investigated. Congress can have hearings, and should.

6. Let Trump take credit for the wins. Who cares if he takes credit and snubs everyone else. Republicans get to be reelected if the results are good. Trump loves to take credit, and let him. If things go pear-shaped, then he’ll blame you anyway.

Remember, Trump is less popular than the GOP. Say it ten times. Say it in the mirror every day. From the very beginning, I said that a Trump presidency (yes, I examined the possibility back in July, 2015) would be a massive headache. “Instead of an embarrassment,” I wrote, “Donald might just be the great white hope the GOP is looking for.”

He still could.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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