Trump Declares War on Republicans. Will Republicans Fight Back?

Some are pushing back, but most Republicans fear they would lose a fight with the president.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Now that Donald Trump’s Rasputin, Steve Bannon, has declared open season on Republicans, will the party finally see its president for the saboteur he is?

Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan report for Axios that Bannon is recruiting right-wing primary challengers against every incumbent Republican senator running for reelection next year except Ted Cruz. He told Fox News: “Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them.”

Opposing the leadership of Trump critic Mitch McConnell is “a de facto litmus test in Bannon’s recruitment.”

Allen and Swan conclude:

If Bannon were to field the slate he envisions, the Republican Party would have a civil war on its hands that makes 2010 look like a tea party.

Some are pushing back

Senators Susan Collins, John McCain and Lisa Murkowski blocked a Trump-backed repeal of Obamacare that would have thrown millions of Americans off health insurance.

Senator Bob Corker told The New York Times he is appalled Trump treats foreign policy like a reality TV show.

Defense Secretary James Mattis maintains that adhering to the Iran nuclear deal is in America’s interest. His boss is determined to cancel it.

But most Republicans are numb

In July, I wondered what, other than winning the presidency and putting a conservative, Neil Gorsuch, on the Supreme Court, Trump has done for the Republican Party?

He has divided and weakened Republicans and pursued policies on Europe, NATO, Russia and trade that are the opposite of what they stood for.

Tax reform, a Republican priority, looks almost certain to fail under Trump’s leadership as well.

So why aren’t more Republicans speaking out?

Because they think they would lose a fight with Trump.

David A. Hopkins, a political scientist, points out:

  • Trump’s approval rating is sinking, but Congressional Republicans are even less popular.
  • Aggressive pro-Trump outlets like Breitbart, Fox News and talk radio are no match for establishment media like National Review and The Wall Street Journal.
  • The president never hesitates to berate his opponents, nor does he feel restrained by the facts.
  • Trump is tapping into suspicions long held on the right that Washington corrupts even the most purist of Republicans.