If you have been keeping up with the primary races happening across the country, you may have noticed that most of the candidates who are endorsed by President Trump are winning. Earlier in the week, eight of the nine Trump-backed candidates won their special elections. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted:
“Great Republican election results last night. So far, we have the team we want. 8 for 9 in Special Elections. Red Wave!”
Many view the upcoming midterms as a referendum on the Trump administration. The results of the primaries demonstrate that Republican voters want politicians who are with the president, not against him. This has prompted many to speculate on the reasons for the overwhelming support for Trump among Republicans.
Ben Shapiro, podcaster and Editor-In-Chief at the Daily Wire, recently penned a piece asserting that conservative voters are attracted to Trump because of his personality and not because of his policies. However, when you look closer, it’s obvious that Shapiro’s assessment is overly simplistic; indeed, the situation is a bit more nuanced than he suggests.
Is Trump’s Attitude Winning GOP Primaries?
There is no doubt that aspects of Trump’s personality appeal to conservatives. Where previous Republican politicians have shied away from taking on the Democrats and their allies in the establishment media, Trump has shown time and time again that he isn’t afraid to strike back when his political opponents attack.
The president’s pugnacious approach is unorthodox, but it has worked: He defeated 11 other Republican candidates in the presidential primaries and pulled off an unlikely victory against the well-established Hillary Clinton. Shapiro acknowledges this in his piece:
“There’s been a continuous two-year effort afoot to intellectualize Trumpism, as though Trump’s popularity is tied to his policy proposals. That’s nonsense. Trump won the Republican primaries because he was – by far – the most aggressive, no-holds-barred candidate. Republican primary voters wanted to see Hillary Clinton pummeled on stage, and Trump offered the best promise of that. After brutalizing Jeb Bush and reducing Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to frustrated stammering, Trump proceeded to pile drive Hillary Clinton at every opportunity.”
Shapiro goes on to state that Trump has excited conservatives who, in previous years, have become accustomed to milquetoast candidates who allowed the media to launch vicious rhetorical attacks against them without pushing back. In a sense, Americans on the right latched onto Trump because he was the first GOP president in recent memory to take the fight to the left. Put simply, he became the voice of conservatism against the Democrats. According to Shapiro, this has caused conservatives to become willing to defend some of Trump’s less desirable personality traits. He writes:
“And, like Sean Connery, much of the Republican base began asking its politicians a simple question: “What are you prepared to do?” What are you prepared to do to defeat the Left? Are you prepared to defend a man on tape bragging about grabbing p*****s? Are you prepared to back him when he says some “very good people” marched at Charlottesville? Are you prepared to cheer when he kisses up to Vladimir Putin? What are you prepared to do?”
In the piece, Shapiro claims that a willingness to defend Trump at all costs has become a sort of litmus test for conservative politicians. Moreover, he asserts that the president’s supporters have become willing to destroy the country’s political norms if it means winning. “Pre-Trump Republicans erred on the side of leaving too many political norms in place; Trump errs on the side of eviscerating all political norms in the name of victory,” he writes. “And because Trump won, and continues to win, the Republican base largely believes in the evisceration.”
Conservatives Do Not Defend All of Trump’s Behavior
There is some truth to Shapiro’s arguments — many who support Trump appreciate his hard-hitting style and his refusal to give in to political correctness. Indeed, conservatives grew weary of being told what they can and cannot say. They are fed up with being accused of bigotry for simply disagreeing with the left on certain issues. However, Shapiro gets it wrong when he states that Americans on the right are supporting Trump because of his attitude, and not because of his policy stances.
Individuals who subscribe to Shapiro’s statements about Trump supporters forget the fact that the president won 44.9% of the vote during the Republican presidential primaries. This means that more than half of Republican voters favored a different candidate. Obviously, his attitude did not appeal to everyone on the right.
When The New York Times opened up its editorial page and allowed Trump voters to write in and explain their support of the president, several readers indicated that there were parts of his personality that they did not like. One wrote, “What I like least about his presidency so far is the tweeting. “It’s often immature and lowers the tone of the debate while debasing the office of the presidency.”
While the president enjoys about 80% support from Republicans, it is clear that those who support him don’t necessarily approve of everything he says or does. Conservatives support Trump because his policies reflect the desires of his voters.
Republican Voters Are Tired of the Establishment
For years, conservatives have carried a certain level of resentment toward establishment Republican leaders, who they believe have not kept their promises. Trump voters — similar to members of the Tea Party — view many GOP lawmakers as feckless politicians who refused to challenge the Democrats on issues such as taxes, foreign policy, immigration, and healthcare.
Just as they did in the late 2000s, Republican voters wish to remove as many establishment Republican leaders as possible and replace them with people who are on board with Trump’s agenda. The president promised to curb illegal immigration, keep us out of unnecessary military engagements, lower taxes, remove regulations on business, and repeal Obamacare. It’s worth pointing out that unlike past Republican presidents, Trump has kept many of the promises he made — and is working towards accomplishing the rest.
Are there Trump supporters who are drawn to the president simply because of his attitude? Sure. But the notion that the majority of Trump voters aren’t concerned about policy is absurd. They elected him because of the policies he espoused.
Republican voters want a better economy. They want an end to illegal immigration. They want lower taxes. This is nothing new; it is exactly what they have wanted for decades. Now, they have a president who will work to give his voters what they asked for — and if he slaps the left around as he does it, that’s a bonus.