Is Trump the Only Republican Out There?

In just a few days, the 2018 congressional midterm elections will determine which party controls Congress for the next two years.  This is arguably one of the most important elections of recent times, given how much is riding on the outcome.  Despite President Trump not literally being on the ballot, he is very much on the ballot.

Trump is a bigger-than-life political character, sucking the air out of any room he is in, whether the Oval Office or a large sports arena or airplane hangar where he holds his political rallies.  Love him or hate him, he dominates U.S. and world politics unlike any other politician in memory.

Most of the media loathe Trump, yet they talk and tweet about little else.  Hollywood leftists are obsessed with him, threatening mob violence and their repeated promises to move away from the United States if their party fails to win the midterms.

Some Republicans, members of Trump's party, are reacting similarly.  Trump has driven NeverTrumps to insanity, with onetime Republican conservative, now CNN regular Max Boot urging the few who still read his columns to "[v]ote against all Republicans.  Every single one."  There is also former GOP operative, now MSNBC crank Nicolle Wallace admitting "[s]he told Jeb Bush to sucker punch Trump during GOP primary."

The president, while not on the ballot, is acting as if he were.  Between now and Election Day, he is holding mega-rallies every day, sometimes multiple times per day, just as he did two years ago before his volcanic electoral victory.  Trump is repeating what was a successful formula for getting out the vote in 2016.

While Mrs. Clinton was sipping chardonnay and taking naps, Trump was crisscrossing the country, speaking to standing room only crowds, whipping up his base, and ultimately winning the election.  He is doing the same now, painting a bleak picture of what America will look like with Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House and caricatures Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff in charge of important congressional committees.

Trump touts his economic successes and Republican accomplishments – high GDP, low unemployment, new trade deals, record consumer and business confidence – as well as his conservative judicial appointments and rollback of the regulatory state.  Congress has played a role in much of this, even if reluctantly.  Both houses passed the tax cuts, and the Senate confirmed the judges.

Trump reminds rallygoers and TV-watchers constantly of his achievements.  But which group has been mysteriously quiet, not seeking to take credit for accomplishments they should be proud of, shouting from the rooftops?

I speak of congressional Republicans.  Each House member and one third of senators are on the ballot, or their nominated replacements are.  Regardless of whether next Tuesday brings a blue or red wave, Donald Trump will still be in the White House for at least another two years.  Where are the Republicans?

It's the Republican members of Congress who should be touting the miracles of the past two years, including the GDP being higher than the unemployment rate, unlike the last eight years.  They should be reminding the country what the consequences are of Democrats taking control of one or both houses of Congress.

Trump has been ticking boxes on the Republican wish list, fulfilling campaign promises going back to the Goldwater days.  Republicans should be proud, finally accomplishing much of their agenda, from taxes to judges to immigration.

Yet most are silent.  House speaker Paul Ryan could be on any network or cable news show at any time by virtue of his position.  Instead, he is a ghost, occasionally becoming visible to cast stones at the leader of his party, as he did recently, saying, Trump could not stop birthright citizenship via executive order.  On that subject, there is considerable debate, and as Trump likes to say, "we'll see."

At the local level in Denver, NeverTrump GOP congressman Mike Coffman earned the endorsement of the liberal Denver Post for standing up to Trump.  The newspaper praises him thus: "Mike Coffman's morality must be rewarded in this age of Trump," thrilled that "[t]he former Marine has made a mad-dash to the center."  So have many other Republicans, running away from Trump, acting more like Democrats, currying favor with the left-wing media.

The same Denver Post endorsed far-left Congressman Jared Polis for governor, a Bernie Sanders clone, who made a mad dash not to the center, but to the left.  It seems that only Republicans are required to move to the center to earn an endorsement.

Democrats have inadvertently been throwing slow curve balls to Republicans to hit over the centerfield fence.  Trump, a former baseball player, is hitting home runs while the GOP stands at the plate, bat on shoulder, taking pitch after pitch.

What opportunities are Republicans missing?  Aside from the economy, they snooze over the Kavanaugh hearings, the migrant caravan, and now birthright citizenship.

A few GOP senators distinguished themselves during the Kavanaugh confirmation – Graham, Grassley, and McConnell.  Where were the other 50 or so GOP senators?  Or the 237 Republican representatives?  A wasted opportunity.  Talk radio, a few voices on Fox News, and blogs became the Republican voice.  Congressional Republicans were asleep.

Why is Trump the only one calling the migrant caravan what it really is: "an invasion"?  Senator Corker, not calling out this October surprise for the political stunt it is, instead criticizes the president for "using fear to stimulate midterm voters."

Trump has deftly brought the issue of birthright citizenship, ignored by the establishment of both parties, to the forefront ahead of the midterms, forcing candidates to take a position.  Paul Ryan made his opinion clear, as has retiring Senator Jeff Flake, saying, "Trump can't and shouldn't nix birthright citizenship."

Three issues to galvanize the Republican base, creating a red wave, accelerating Trump's MAGA agenda.  Yet he is the only one making the case for voting Republican, even though he isn't on the ballot.  Where is the rest of the party?

The media have made this election a referendum on Trump, which is fine, as Trump's base is far more loyal and committed than the Republican base.  Why aren't Republicans in Congress basking in the Trump limelight, taking some credit for the economy, and taking a strong and populist stand on Kavanaugh and immigration?

Are they still embarrassed over Trump – his style and his tweets?  Are they uncomfortable pushing back against a corrupt and hostile media-entertainment establishment?  Would they be happier in the minority with a neutered president?  Is their conservative agenda nothing more than campaign rhetoric trotted out every two years?

If Trump and his agenda weren't figuratively on the ballot, I suspect that many Republican voters would stay home next Tuesday.  I am voting all Rs – not because my R choices are inspiring, but because a Republican House and Senate is the only way to keep the MAGA train running.

Such a shame and a lost opportunity.  It seems that Trump is the only prominent Republican out there campaigning and serious about winning.

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Image credit: Michael Vachon.

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