A simple yet reliable model for politicians can be just to consider what gets them re-elected. If we use that model for the GOP, it works very well for their relationship with Trump.
During the Presidential primaries last year, there were some vocal opponents of Trump from within the GOP but despite some major provocations they mostly moved to support him. Those expecting his behaviour and performance of the past months to lead to him losing the support of the GOP is based upon:
- He is doing a bad job
- He is at record levels of unpopularity for an incoming President
But if we use our simple model both of these arguments quickly disappear.
- They would prefer a better President but this is not their major concern
- The electoral rationale is compelling. Trump’s popularity with non-Republicans is already at record low levels and keeps declining rapidly. But he is still overwhelmingly popular with Republican voters. By contrast virtually no-one likes Congress, with just 27% of Americans having a favourable opinion of them. So, if these really unpopular members of Congress move against a Trump they are offending the vast majority of people who might vote for them. Until this week, the GOP quickly defended him irrespective of what he had done.
Can this change?
The way that this could change is if Trump starts to bleed support from within his own supporters. But this has been predicted so many times and has always been wrong that again I have a simple model that says that they will support him irrespective of what he does. I actually think that his popularity might be best modelled as chaotic – by which I mean it could be very stable but then change enormously with what seems a small incremental catalyst.
The other way that it could change is if my simple model of the GOP is not true. Senators such as John McCain are clearly loyal to the party but prize their loyalty to their country and its Constitution more highly. What if there are some ethical lines which cannot be crossed?