The G.O.P. and Public Opinion
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Good Morning. We explain why Senate Republicans defied public opinion to acquit Trump.
For purely political reasons, the Republicans in Congress had some good reasons to abandon Donald Trump as their party’s de facto leader.
Trump is unpopular with most Americans, and he has been throughout his political career. He was only able to win the presidency in 2016 with the help of a few unusual factors – including an unpopular opponent, an intervention by Russia and the FBI director, and wafer-thin victories in three swing states.
Today Trump is a defeated president with a tenure that never cracked 47 percent of the vote, and political parties are usually happy to walk away from presidents who lose re-election.
That would have been true before Trump’s reaction to his defeat. He was the first president in US history to attempt to overturn an election result, and he incited a crowd of supporters who violently attacked Congress while it met to confirm the results. (Here’s the latest on what he knew during the insurrection.) Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in the Senate this weekend that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack and charged him with “a shameful negligence.” ”
Partly because of the riot, Trump left office with an approval rating of just 39 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight. Several recent polls showed that a majority of Americans believed the Senate should condemn him and expel him from future office.
Why didn’t the Senate Republicans do this?
The GOP is doing well
The answer has two important parts.
The more obvious is the short-term political danger to individual Republicans. According to polls, around 70 percent of Republican voters still strongly support Trump. A similar percentage says they would be less likely to vote for a Republican senator who voted to condemn Trump, according to Vox’s Li Zhou.
For Republican politicians, turning on Trump still carries significant career end-of-career risk, as it did for Jeff Flake, former Senator from Arizona and Jeff Sessions, former Attorney General. Of the seven Republican senators who voted for the condemnation, only one – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – is facing re-election next year, said Burgess Everett of Politico. And the seven are already facing a setback in their home states.
The second part of the answer is more subtle, but no less important. Today’s Republican Party is less concerned with national public opinion than it used to be – or than the Democratic Party of today.
The Republican Party of the past won elections by convincing most Americans that it would do a better job than the Democrats in running the country. Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower each won at least 57 percent of the vote in their re-election campaigns. George W. Bush won 51 percent, largely by appealing to voters on national security, education, immigration, and other issues. A party that focused on rebuilding a national majority likely couldn’t stay tied to Trump.
But the modern Republican Party has found ways other than majority support to achieve its goals.
It benefits from a large built-in advantage in the Senate that gives rural and heavily white states more power. The filibuster helps the Republicans more than the Democrats. In the House and state legislatures, both parties have changed, but Republicans have done more of it. In court, Republicans have been more aggressive at putting judges on the bench and preventing Democratic presidents from doing so. In the electoral college, Democrats are currently wasting more votes than Republicans on winning big at the state level.
All of this explains Trump’s second acquittal. The Republican Party is in the middle of the worst part of any party’s referendum in the presidential election, in all of American history, after losing seven of the last eight. Nevertheless, the party has had a good few decades in political terms. It figured out how to be successful with support from minorities.
Republican-appointed judges dominate the Supreme Court. Republicans are optimistic that they can take back control of the House and Senate next year (even if they win fewer votes nationwide). Taxes on the rich are near their lowest level in a century. Democrats have failed to set many of their top priorities – climate change, Medicare, minimum wage, preschool, gun control, immigration, and more.
Yes, Trump’s acquittal bucked public opinion. But it still might not cost the Republicans political power.
More on impeachment:
McConnell’s actions – voting in favor of acquittal while insulting Trump – were an attempt “to please Trump supporters as well as appeal to Republicans who are rejected by Trump,” said Carl Hulse, chief correspondent for the Times in Washington.
President Biden wanted Trump to be convicted, but the speedy process at least allows Biden to be on his agenda, starting with a virus relief bill.
At least six people who worked as security guards for Roger Stone, an ally of Trump, stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, a Times investigation found.
The acquittal revived speculation about Trump’s daughter-in-law’s election prospects.
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ART AND IDEAS
Why did Rihanna’s luxury label fail?
Less than two years ago, Rihanna, one of the biggest stars in the world, and LVMH, one of the biggest luxury groups in the world, announced a collaboration: Fenty Fashion House. The early reception was mostly positive. Fenty was “glamorous but not sophisticated,” as Emilia Petrarca wrote in the cut.
Even so, Fenty took a break last week. What caused the error?
The pandemic played a role. Building a new brand takes time, and ceasing operations has hurt a large part of the fashion industry. But companies and brands that collapse during an economic downturn have usually had pre-existing problems, and Fenty fits that pattern.
For one, it was far more expensive than other products from Rihanna’s empire, which include Fenty Beauty, a successful makeup line, and Savage x Fenty, a lingerie brand. For example, a Fenty hoodie costs $ 300 and a turtleneck mini dress is $ 740. “Fashion lines that focus on celebrities tend to do better in the mass market at affordable prices,” wrote Marc Bain in Quartz.
The brand also tended to use simpler constructions and fabrics to keep prices down, reports The Business of Fashion, resulting in products that were “cheaper than Dior but barely as desirable”. Most people who buy luxury clothing see it as an investment, Elizabeth Paton told us, who covers fashion for The Times. “Why buy Fenty when you can buy a Vuitton handbag that won’t lose value?”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Spelling Bee’s pangram on Friday was halogen. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play online.
Here’s today’s mini crossword and a clue: Feel Sore (four letters).
If you feel like playing more, all of our games can be found here.
Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. Until tomorrow. – David
Reader feedback: Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former head of the CDC, wrote that he agreed to Friday’s newsletter on the dangers of Covid absolutism – but disagreed that eliminating trans fats was another example of problematic absolutism. “Trans fat is an unnecessary, toxic chemical that kills and we need to be aware of this to the public,” he wrote. For more information, see Dissolve to Save Lives.