Is there anything Donald Trump could do to lose the support of Republicans? We came up with a surprising answer.
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In January 2016, before anybody had voted for him for anything, Donald Trump famously predicted that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and [he] wouldn’t lose any voters.” Since then, he has done all he can to put that theory to the test — short of actually shooting someone.
As it turns out, his statement has been quite prescient, at least in terms of Republican voters, who continue to be under his spell.
That’s why we asked ourselves what Trump would have to do to lose the support of a majority of Republicans and the backing of his party’s establishment. We know it’s not boasting of sexual assault (or being convicted of it), being impeached (twice), lying about who won the 2020 election (and just about everything else), attempting a coup, inciting a bloody insurrection, palling around with dictators, being indicted for financial crimes, and any number of other things.
It looks as though we can add “being indicted for violating the Espionage Act” to that list. Because, in spite of special counsel Jack Smith and his team making a very compelling case against Trump, it certainly looks as though Republican voters, GOP lawmakers (especially the most rabid ones), right-wing talking heads, and even his rivals for the 2024 presidential nomination will continue to have his back.
See related story: The Trump Indictment Proves That the GOP Is a Cult
So, what would it take?
The closest the former president has gotten to “losing the room” was when he told a crowd in Alabama that he had received a COVID-19 vaccine booster and urged his supporters to also get that shot. Oh, the irony. The one time he says something that might actually be useful is the time they turn on him.
Maybe that’s the answer to the question.
If Trump were to tell his followers to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, put money in high-interest savings accounts, or be kind to each other, then he might lose their support. Actually, that last one might do the trick. It would not go over very well if Trump said he wanted to be the president of all Americans, even those commies and RINOs left of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
But that’s not a mistake Trump would make.
For his many shortcomings, he is very astute when it comes to knowing what his supporters want. And, apparently, that is bigotry.
The former president remarked on that himself at a speech this weekend in North Carolina. When laying out his agenda, he received a standing ovation for saying that schools who teach “critical race theory” or “transgender insanity” or “inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content” would receive no federal funding.
Trump notes his crowd is more enthused about bigotry than they are for tax cuts: "It's amazing how strongly people feel about that. I talk about cutting taxes, people go like that, I talk about transgender everybody goes crazy. Five years ago you didn't know what the hell it was" pic.twitter.com/n1xoeCIL5C
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 11, 2023
Trump paused to comment on his supporters’ priorities.
“It’s amazing how strongly people feel about that. You see I’m talking about cutting taxes, people go like that,” Trump said, mimicking a polite clap. “I talk about transgender, everyone goes crazy. Who would have thought?”
Now we are getting closer to answering the question of what it would take for Republicans to turn their backs to him.
Because it might just be that he would only lose GOP voters if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and didn’t shoot a transgender immigrant.