Trump’s 500-Day Coup of the Republican Party

Jonathan Swan: “In 500 days, Trump’s hijacking of the formerly conservative GOP is complete — an astonishing accomplishment. The majority party in America is fully defined by his policies, his popularity with the base, his facts-be-damned mentality, his ability to control and quiet virtually all Republican elected officials.”

“Trump has wiped out a large portion of Obama’s legacy. He’s exited the Paris climate deal; signed major tax cuts, especially for corporations; confirmed an ultra-conservative Supreme Court justice and record numbers of circuit court judges; deregulated like crazy; exited the Iran deal; exited the TPP trade deal; repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate; and moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing it as Israel’s capital.”

“New hardline immigration enforcement is in place, including separating children from parents of illegal immigrants.”

Axios points out that Trump “commands the second highest ‘own party’ approval rating of any president at the 500 day mark since World War II, behind only President George W. Bush, after 9/11.”

Independents Now Outnumber Republicans In California

“Independents have surpassed Republicans to become the second-largest voting bloc in California, according to a firm that analyzes county voter registration information for campaigns,” the Sacramento Bee reports.

“Political Data Inc. on Tuesday released its latest count showing that voters registered with no party preference now outnumber Republicans by about 73,000 in California. The company regularly collects raw voter files from county registrars to maintain an updated database of the state’s 19 million voters.”

Playbook: “California Republicans have been sliding into obscurity for some time. But this seems particularly ominous in the long term for House Republicans, who have 14 seats in California.”

Some Republicans Quietly Align With Democrats

“Since Donald Trump began dominating American politics more than two years ago, Democrats concerned about his policies and behavior have taken solace in a group of influential Republicans who have consistently assailed the president as anathema to the values of their party, and the country more broadly,” the New York Times reports.

“In the past year, however, influential liberal donors and operatives have gone from cheering these so-called Never Trump Republicans to quietly working with — and even funding — them. Through invitation-only emails and private, off-the-record meetings, they have formed a loose network of cross-partisan alliances aimed at helping neutralize President Trump, and preventing others from capitalizing on weaknesses in the political system that they say he has exploited.”

RNC Apparently Paying Legal Bills for Hope Hicks

“The RNC paid nearly half a million dollars to a law firm that represents former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others in the Russia investigations,” the Washington Post reports.

“Last year, the RNC began tapping a pool of money stockpiled for election recounts and other legal matters to pay the ballooning legal fees of Trump and his associates drawn into the Russia investigations.”

Pence Reaches for Control of the GOP

New York Times: “While Mr. Trump remains an overpowering personality in Republican politics, he is mostly uninterested in the mechanics of managing a political party. His team of advisers is riven with personal divisions and the White House has not yet crafted a strategy for the midterms. So Mr. Trump’s supremely disciplined running mate has stepped into the void.”

“Republican officials now see Mr. Pence as seeking to exercise expansive control over a political party ostensibly helmed by Mr. Trump, tending to his own allies and interests even when the president’s instincts lean in another direction. Even as he laces his public remarks with praise for the president, Mr. Pence and his influential chief of staff, Nick Ayers, are unsettling a group of Mr. Trump’s fierce loyalists who fear they are forging a separate power base.”

Trump Flipped an Entire Party’s Core Beliefs

Jim VandeHei: “Reversing one of the basic assumptions of politics, Trump has shown you can radically change a political party’s core beliefs and brand overnight. Only six years ago, the GOP’s Romney-Ryan ticket was preaching the evils of Russia, the virtue of free trade, the sin of deficits. With no debate and little resistance, Trump has flipped an entire party’s core beliefs. Turns out, voters are far more malleable than we thought — and candidates and presidents can change minds overnight.”

“We always assumed party affiliation was a prerequisite for leading a political party, and some political experience a must. Trump was a liberal Democrat and he hijacked conservatism. The hunger for something different is unmistakable, partly because a big chunk of voters have had it with conventional politics and politicians. No reason another exotic Republican — or third party, or even a surprise Democrat — couldn’t do the same.”

Republicans Are the Party of No Ideas

Reason: “In the Trump administration, it’s always infrastructure week. But it’s less of a legislative rollout and more of a state of mind. Despite promises dating back to the 2016, the White House admitted yesterday that there won’t be any infrastructure bill this year.”

“Whether you view Trump’s infrastructure plan as a smart way to leverage federal spending, another federal boondoggle, an on-brand political move with cross-partisan potential, or, like me, some mix of the above, the elimination of the bill from this year’s agenda is yet another reminder of how little Republicans have to offer in terms of substantive policy.”

” If anything, the party appears to be giving up on its long-held priorities, and replacing them with vacuous Trumpism. Loyalty to the president has become a substitute for a governing vision.”

The Anti-Immigration Party

Ron Brownstein: “The results of Tuesday’s primary elections simultaneously bolstered the Republican Party mainstream and demonstrated how much ground it has yielded to Donald Trump, particularly on the volatile issue of immigration.”

“In several key races, GOP primary voters rejected candidates who presented themselves as the most ardent acolytes of Trump, in terms of style, political agenda, or both. But the relatively more mainstream alternatives triumphed in those contests only after embracing much, or all, of Trump’s hostility toward immigration. That dynamic underscores Trump’s success at eroding resistance in the GOP toward his racially infused nationalism. And that could prove a defining gamble for the party in a nation inexorably growing more diverse.”

West Virginia Shows Trump Was No Aberration

Dana Milbank: “Whether or not the president stops Blankenship, the West Virginia GOP primary confirms that this sort of vulgar demagoguery is becoming routine. Trump’s election was no aberration. Rather, he exploited deep problems in American politics that had been building for years — and others, following his example, will exploit those same problems after he’s gone.”

“Before Trump, there was Sarah Palin, the tea party movement, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Republican Study Committee, the Freedom Caucus. The Republican Party tried to harness the rage of the nativist right but ultimately couldn’t contain it. House speakers John Boehner (R-OH) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) failed, as will whoever leads the party next. Now we have Blankenship, Roy Moore, Joe Arpaio and a proliferation of name-calling misfits and even felons on Republican ballots. They are monsters created by the GOP, or rather the power vacuum the GOP has become.”

Quote of the Day

“What too many lawmakers fail to see is this: If you don’t go on the record, your opinion doesn’t count. Worse, neither will your legacy. Refusing to publicly acknowledge your convictions simply affirms your unwillingness to act on them. And that is an indictment of you, not the president.”

— Former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL), writing in the Washington Post, calling out Republican lawmakers who refuse to condemn President Trump.

RNC Trying to Dissuade Primary Challenge to Trump

A member of the RNC Rules Committee told BuzzFeed News that the committee is about to vote on an RNC proposal to eliminate a standing committee on primary debates.

Said Randy Evans: “Obviously this is intended to dissuade a primary challenge to the president.”

“Evans says the proposed change is a clear move to protect Trump and gives too much power to the media to frame campaign debates. Originally, the rule was meant to prevent GOP candidates from participating in unsanctioned debates by imposing penalties, such as disqualification from sanctioned debates.”