Although there were 12 Republican U.S. Senators who voted against Donald Trump in the vote last week on his emergency declaration, this doesn’t mean there is a widespread revolt in his party. In fact, what’s more revealing is to look at the senators who did NOT vote against the president, and understand why. Because it shows that Donald Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican Party is as strong as ever.
Of the 12 senators who voted to condemn Trump’s national emergency declaration, only one is running for reelection next year. And that one is Susan Collins of Maine, who is perceived as an independent by her home-state voters.
This means all of the other Republicans in the Senate who will face an election challenge in 2020 voted to support the president’s national emergency, including many who were strongly opposed to it.
Why would they do that? The answer is simple: fear.
These senators in the president’s party are afraid of one thing above all others, and that is to get “primaried.”
With up to 90% of Republican primary voters likely to be supportive of Trump, the last thing these senators can afford to do is alienate them by appearing disloyal to the president.
There are several Republicans running in swing states who would likely have benefited from voting against Trump. For example Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) all are considered “at risk” next year. They represent states where Donald Trump is not popular with the general electorate, yet in the crucial Senate vote they stuck with him.
Another good example is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Although there are rumors that McConnell may retire next year, he still is up for reelection. And he endorsed Trump’s national emergency declaration even though he had initially warned Trump against making the move.
Republicans have little choice given how important the issue of border security is with Trump’s base of Republican voters.
One Republican strategist said:
“I think what they’ve seen is the Republican base has been energized by the issue the last couple years and it’s not going away.”
“This issue has really become a defining issue as you go into the next election cycle.”
In a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll 70 percent of Republicans said they will be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Trump’s national emergency declaration.
The arguments against Trump’s national emergency declaration “don’t fly with the Republican base” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP consultant. “This is their No. 1 issue.”
O’Connell also said that senators like Gardner and Tillis need to worry about fending off primary challenges and turning out conservative voters in the general election where Democratic turnout is expected to be very high.
“Even though they want to fend off primary challenges, this is also a situation where, in the general election, if they cross Trump on this issue, Trump could win their state and they could still lose,” O’Connell said. “In a lot of these races, it’s going to be two-point races, whether it’s Gardner or it’s Tillis.
Trump Could Cause Republicans to Lose Control of the Senate in 2020
In next year’s election there will be many vulnerable Republican senators running for reelection. Of the 34 Senate seats being contested in 2020, currently 22 are held by Republicans.
Democrats could possibly pick up GOP seats in Maine, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia, Montana, Kansas and Kentucky. But they only need to have a net gain of three seats to take Senate control (assuming they win the presidency and vice presidency).
With terrified Republicans being forced to support the unpopular policies of their president, many have put themselves in a “no win” situation.
These senators are so afraid of primary challenges that they have turned cowardly. They are now blindly following Donald Trump (who also may soon be impeached and/or indicted for his criminal behavior).
Constituents in their home states will remember the cowardice of their senators on election day of 2020 when Democrats take back control of the U.S. Senate.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.