No, I have never seen any news report that Donald Trump is anticipating that the 2018 Congressional elections will result in Democratic control of the House of Representatives. I have absolutely no doubt, however, that this is what he expects.
Simply put, Trump is waging a campaign focused on issues essential to his base voters. Such a campaign does have a chance of maintaining, or even increasing the thin Republican majority in the US Senate, enabling the GOP to win seats held by Democrats in “red” Republican states.
Right now, the Republicans have a 51-49 Senate advantage. They can sustain a net loss of one seat, since with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie, the GOP would retain control.
At present, the Republicans are likely to lose the Senate seats they hold in Nevada, Tennessee, and Arizona. They are competitive, however, in the following states with Senate seats held by Democrats: Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Florida. These states each have a substantial Trump base constituency, and thus are receptive in large part to a Trump base message. To retain control of the Senate, the GOP will need to win two of these five latter seats.
This base message, however, is a disaster for Republican House candidates in districts currently represented by Republican moderates. And these districts currently comprise the great majority of districts considered “in play” in the 2018 midterm election. The defeat of these GOP candidates will definitely cost the Republicans majority control of the House of Representatives, enabling the Democrats to take control of the Lower House in January 2019.
Trump certainly is well aware of his widening disapproval gap in the polls, showing the number of voters who disapprove of Trump’s job performance exceed those who approve by an average margin of roughly 10 percent. Similarly, on the generic ballot vote for control of Congress, support for the Democrats exceeds support for Republicans by an average margin of 10 percent. This is a harbinger of the certain takeover of the House by the Democrats.
The president knows that, and therefore, he is anticipating takeover of the House by the Democrats and is focusing on the Senate.
This focus on the Senate is also being implemented for reasons of Trump survival. He knows that a Democratic House is likely to impeach him and thus he needs as many supine Republicans in the Senate as possible to survive the impeachment trial.
It must be noted that the generic ballot reflects a huge gender gap, largely propelled by major anti-Trump defections by women, particularly among white women who are college educated. The women’s vote will not return to the GOP before election day, 2018. It has been said that most women have developed a strong aversion or even dislike of the president. I believe this characterization is inaccurate. A more accurate description would be to say that most women of all races, colors, and creeds despise Donald Trump.
In order to assess the impact of the Trump message on voters in blue and purple states, it is necessary to assess politically and ideologically exactly what Donald Trump is. It is odious to compare him with Adolf Hitler. Trump is not advocating genocide of any people. A comparison of Trump with Benito Mussolini, however, is totally on point.
Trump is not a conservative in the tradition of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, or William F. Buckley. These were men I venerated who embraced principles of limited government, individualism, and civil liberty.
Benito Mussolini was a fascist, and Donald Trump is a narcissistic proto-fascist. In fact, two distinguished American journalists, the liberal George Packer of the New Yorker and the conservative Ross Douthat of the New York Times have described Trump in the same way: a proto-fascist with poor impulse control. This distinguishes him from his current leading political advisor, Steve Bannon, a proto-fascist with excellent impulse control, making him all the more dangerous. In order to explain all this, it is necessary to define what fascism and proto-fascism are.
Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Italy.
Proto-fascism refers to the embrace of the direct predecessor ideologies and cultural movements that influenced and formed the basis of fascism.
Trump has fully qualified as an American proto-fascist by his embrace of two fundamental fascist foundation doctrines: 1) his espousal of xenophobic nationalism, spoon fed to him by his extremist immigration advisor, Stephen Miller; and 2) his attempt to curtail freedom of the press.
It should be noted that unlike Mussolini, who curtailed freedom of the press by directly taking over media institutions and putting them out of business, Trump has opted for an indirect methodology. He encourages violence against journalists by the use of inflammatory rhetoric, such as his description of the press as “an enemy of the people” and their reporting as “fake news.” He does this in a very effective and frightening demagogic style, reminiscent of Gerald L.K.Smith, Father Charles Coughlin, and Joseph McCarthy. It should be noted that McCarthy’s Senate counsel was Roy Cohn, who later became Trump’s lawyer.
The potential effectiveness of the president’s strategy of press physical intimidation became frighteningly evident at the Trump rally in Tampa, Florida this week. Anybody who watched the ugly confrontation between the crowd and CNN journalist Jim Acosta could only conclude that we are on the verge of increasing Trumpian violence against American journalists.
Thus, the proto-fascist essence of Donald Trump and Trumpism can no longer be denied. And Bannon’s advice to Trump has forged the core of the Trump proto-fascist message to be delivered over the next few months: An emphasis of advocacy of Trump’s cruel and inhumane immigration and political refugee policies, combined with a threat to shut down government if Congress does not give Trump the funding he wants on the Mexican border wall.
This latest proto-fascist message of Trump creates a growing problem for two GOP House of Representatives incumbent candidates in New Jersey: Tom MacArthur and Leonard Lance. Both these candidates have provided excellent constituent service and have demonstrated their independence from President Trump on two vital issues: 1) his abominable Zero Tolerance border immigration policy; and 2) his shameful appeasement of Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Both MacArthur and Lance are running against extremist left wing Progressive Democrats endorsed by J Street, the Jewish appeasement lobby which supported the agreement between the United States and Iran, which seriously jeopardized Israel’s long term security. Normally, MacArthur and Lance would be prohibitive favorites over their respective opponents, Andy Kim and Tom Malinowski. The proto-fascist Trump message adds significantly to Trump toxicity in New Jersey, however, and thus has a negative impact on the reelection chances of these two highly respected incumbents.
Similarly, New Jersey Trump toxicity, fueled by the Trump proto-fascist message is a factor contributing to the likelihood that the race between Republican incumbent Congressman Chris Smith and his Democratic challenger Josh Welle will become a much more competitive contest. I will elaborate on this in a forthcoming column.
One factor in Election 2018 remains abundantly clear. New Jersey and Trump proto-fascism are NOT perfect together. And we need to pray to the Almighty to keep our journalists safe from the presidents-inspired violence.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.
Steinberg is a nationally respected political analyst who writes for News Talk Florida as well as NJinsider.COM. We thank our friends at nyinsider.com for allowing of the reprinting of this column.