Josh Marshall made an astute observation yesterday concerning a new PPP poll about Mitch McConnell’s approval rating in his home state of Kentucky, which is at a pitiful 18% approval and 74% disapproval (“Trump Is Killing McConnell,” Talking Points Memo, 8/21/2017):
McConnell appears to be getting hit badly on multiple fronts. He’s clearly taking a hit from those who opposed the effort to get rid of Kynect/Obamacare, a group which includes a lot of Republicans. But he’s also taking a big hit as the guy who failed to deliver repeal for Trump and the GOP. He’s getting it from both sides. The latter is intensified greatly by the fact that Trump has been repeatedly attacking McConnell and suggesting he should be replaced.
It’s also worth noting that many Trump supporters differentiate between Trump and the Republican party—they see Trump as the outsider come to Washington to set things straight, whereas the Republican party is part of the establishment they want Trump to “shake up.” I think this in part explains why McConnell sits at a pathetic 18% approval while Trump is at 62.5% approval. And, as Marshall notes, McConnell’s inability to deliver on a big Trump promise—not only to repeal Obamacare (which was also a McConnell promise) but to replace it with “something terrific”—after seven years of nonstop talk about it makes McConnell look weak. Trump supporters are able to differentiate it because Trump proved his strength in winning an election he wasn’t supposed to win, so what’s wrong with McConnell that he can’t whip up fifty votes for repeal?
A more sinister observation is that the hardcore Trump base sees McConnell as part of a plot to, if not remove Trump from office, then at least make him look bad and stymie his agenda. Go to Breitbart, for example, and look at the reaction the far-right had to Jake Tapper’s interview with Paul Ryan last night. They don’t think that Ryan got suckered into talking about Trump’s Charlottesville comments again instead of discussing Trump’s non-strategy in Afghanistan, they think he’s in on it to discredit the president in front of the nation. Look at the way Trump’s base went after his primary opponents. Look at the way they go after mild conservative critics like those over at the National Review.
The old adage that “conservatism cannot fail; it can only be failed,” has taken on a new meaning in the Trump era. It’s Trump that cannot fail, no matter what he does or doesn’t do.