The reactions from across the spectrum of American politics to reports that President Donald Trump, in a recent closed-door meeting with Washington, DC politicians discussing immigration policy, referred to some Third World countries as “shitholes” has been really something to watch.
Trump, of course, has always been rhetorically controversial — a characteristic that long predates his formal engagement in American electoral politics. In fact, his bombastic and off-the-cuff style has been a defining characteristic of Trump the celebrity, — and he, as promised, is the same Donald Trump that he’s always been.
Every time the president hits a “high note” with a particularly controversial statement or tweet, you can see those in the political world all predictably head to their corners:
The toxic cocktail of eight years of left-wing Barack Obama in the White House, combined with a generation of GOP leadership campaigning as conservatives but governing as politicians committed to maintaining the established status quo, gave birth to a large movement of really ticked off and angry people. This coalition is made up of a combination of longtime GOP activists, blue collar folks tired of having no one looking out for them, and cynics just tired of the baloney and lip-service coming out of the “swamp.” For these folks — the President’s persona — aggressive, candid, and often controversial — is seen as a big plus, a welcome change from the cultural norms of the political scene. This group of people rises to the defense of Trump on social media each and every time there is controversy.
The Ideological Right
Skepticism of Donald Trump’s ideological commitment characterized this group during the campaign season. This group tended to be more clustered around the candidacies of candidates like Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Disillusioned by the GOP establishment, they are looking to shake up DC through public policy. These folks went into the Trump presidency prepared for the worst, but have almost completely been won over by the President’s appointments, executive orders, and bill signings. This group would be those who celebrate great things the president is doing, but roll their eyes sometimes at the fiery rhetoric and the drama of Trump. While these folks cheer Trump’s actions, they are either silent when Trump is Trump, or verbalize the equivalent of a heavy sigh.
The GOP Establishment
This broadly-labeled group represents the Washington, DC-centered GOP political class. They lament what they view as Trump’s eccentricities — but their plans to take advantage of a Republican in the White House to drive their agenda and advantage their position on Capitol Hill will cause them largely to mute any serious conflicts with a president famous for reacting to criticism being hurled his way. From Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), down the food chain, their frustration is when Trump’s bombastic style impedes their agenda. But they will smile, and move on.
This category has been defined and redefined over time by many columnists. I throw into this category two types of Republicans. The first are the statesmen (to be kind) and those who see radical behavior, a fiery temperament, or uncouthness as so off-putting that just the idea of a showman like Donald Trump turns them apoplectic. These are people who see the rise of Trump as almost a repudiation of their idea of how politics should exist. Some of these folks supported former Florida governor Jeb Bush, while others backed Ohio’s Governor John Kasich. Most of them, despite many conservative things that Trump has done in the White House, wish that he had lost and can’t wait until his presidency is over: they all firmly are hoping for one term. Many of them are comfortably criticizing Trump for the things he says — usually, with an air of superiority. Their heads may explode if the campaign in 2020 is President Trump versus someone like Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) or Kamala Harris (D-CA) — i.e. a leftist whom they would oppose in all other circumstances.
The Left (To Largely Include the Media)
For these folks, Donald Trump is the poster child for everything they hate. To start with, they are incensed that Trump has spent his first year governing as a conservative. From his Supreme Court pick, to his repeal of the individual mandate of Obamacare, to the GOP tax plan, to his hardcore stance on immigration (both fighting illegal immigration, and tightening legal immigration) — to them, Trump is the political equivalent of the antichrist. They attack Trump day and day out, many foaming at the mouth in the process. Millions of them have signed petitions calling for Trump’s impeachment. These are the ones decrying Trump as a racist and worse, and staking out the position that if you don’t attack this President, then you endorse everything he says and does.
As you find yourself watching talking heads on cable news, reading columns in newspapers, following folks on social media — it becomes pretty easy to divide almost everyone into one of these five categories. Where do you put yourself?These groupings aren’t going to change much as long as President Trump continues to advance a more conservative agenda on Capitol Hill. If he tacks to the center on policy— look for a lot of changes, as what the President does influences these groupings infinitely more than what he says.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California. He has been involved with and chronicling California politics for three decades. His columns can be found on this page. You can follow him on Twitter here.