Instead of rattling off the morning’s political updates today, let’s step back and take a look at where the Republican party is right now:
Though his approval ratings ticked up slightly two weeks ago after flirting with bipartisanship, Trump has never looked weaker as a President than he does now.
— Agree or disagree with his position, 66 percent of the country believes that Trump should be focusing on matters other than the NFL.
— Puerto Rico is quickly turning into this Presidency’s Katrina, and Trump has absolutely no idea how to resolve the situation. Things are worsening there. 3.4 million people are without power; most are without water. Most people in Puerto Rico have not seen anyone from FEMA. Trump doesn’t plan to make a visit until next week. Trump can’t be blamed for the hurricane, but he has botched the response to hell. If things really go sideways, people will remember that he spent more of his time tweeting about the NFL than handling a mounting humanitarian crisis.
— Trump has failed once again to pass an Obamacare repeal. He’s fuming, blaming Mitch McConnell and John McCain (mocking them physically), which is not exactly the guy with whom Donald Trump wants to be in a fight, especially while feigning support for the military in his war with the NFL.
— Increasingly, Trump looks like a toothless Commander in Chief where it concerns North Korea. His threats of nuclear retaliation are now meaningless background noise. North Korea doesn’t fear him; they’re laughing at him.
— After throwing his own party under the bus in extending the debt ceiling, and calling out several individual members of his own party over the course of the last 8 months, Trump no longer has the backing of the GOP. Yes, they will still vote in their own interests, but if those interests do not align with Trump’s, they have no incentive to play along with the President. This is what he has to deal with as he attempts to push through tax reform. Trump’s probably not going to be focused on tax reform anyway, because he’s still obsessed with health care.
With one Yes vote in hospital & very positive signs from Alaska and two others (McCain is out), we have the HCare Vote, but not for Friday!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017
— The President has no friends left inside the White House. He has a guy in General Kelly who can barely tolerate him and is seen as managing the President. Trump’s inner circle is in tatters, and they’re all about to face questions from Robert Mueller, which is not exactly going to help those relationships. Speaking of which, where is Jared Kushner? Is he even a factor anymore? He and Ivanka seem increasingly irrelevant. Steve Bannon, from outside the White House, seems to have more power than ever before. Kushner is being investigated. Tom Price is being investigated. Steve Mnuchin is reportedly under investigation. Gary Cohn openly dislikes the President and is seen as on his way out as soon as tax reform is passed (if it’s passed). Trump also fumed about Jeff Sessions again, as little as two days ago.
— Mueller continues to close in. He’s interviewing those close to the President now. An indictment against Paul Manafort is expected soon. Mueller is examining potential financial crimes, and asking for a lot of information re: possible obstruction of justice charges.
— Trump does still have his base, but with 86 percent of Americans supporting the DREAMers, Trump will invariably divide even his base on whatever solution he eventually comes up with on that front.
The Republican Party
The GOP, quite honestly, is in even worse shape than Trump. Mitch McConnell has an 18 percent approval rating in his own state. Moderate, establishment Republicans are retiring, and Bannon is expected to run out several more moderate members in 2018 and 2020. There’s going to be a civil war within the party, as last night’s Senate primary in Alabama illustrates. I’m sorry, but Democrat Doug Jones does not have a chance in hell. God bless him, but he looks like the Jerry Gergich of Alabama.
— The establishment wing of the party is going to have to spend millions to protect its own, which is going to make it more challenging for them against Democratic opponents if they win. If they don’t win, Democrats will face extremist Republicans. While Bannon Republicans may do well in places like Alabama and Mississippi, it should give Democrats a leg up in the midwest or even places like New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, where the tide has turned against Trump.
— After promising to repeal Obamacare for seven years, the GOP has nothing to show for it. Now, they’re contemplating doubling down in a desperation move by combining tax reform and health care, making it all the more difficult to get anything passed.
Where Does This Leave Us?
With an increasingly ineffective Congress, and Trump unable to effectively govern, legislate, or handle international affairs, Trump will almost certainly focus his attention on dividing us. It’s the only card he has, and it has proven effective: The more he divides the country on other issues, the less we focus on his many, many failures. Tom Price is being investigated; senior White House officials have been caught using private email servers; health care has failed again; North Korea is threatening war; and the Russian investigation is closing in, but all anyone is talking about is whether NFL players should take a knee during the national anthem. The motherfucker has us right where he wants us: Mired in a culture war.