Susan J. Demas: Republicans have accepted Trump is terrible. And they’ve decided Democrats are worse.

April 15, 2019 6:07 am

U.S. President Donald Trump stands in the colonnade as he is introduced to speak to March for Life participants and pro-life leaders in the Rose Garden at the White House on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Back in the halcyon “Never Trump” days of 2016, you’d see conservatives slamming the GOP presidential nominee daily on TV.

Much of the focus was on Donald Trump’s “coarseness,” not necessarily his overt racism and sexism. And plenty were horrified by his “populist” agenda instead of Reagan-style supply-side economics.

But some weren’t afraid to call him out back then.

“He took our problems in 2012 with Hispanics and made them far worse by espousing forced deportation. Looking back, we should have basically kicked him out of the party.”

That was U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in 2016. He also called Trump a “kook” who was unfit for office. You have to wonder what that guy would think if he met Lindsey Graham in 2019.

Consider this mess of apparatchik hyperbole from the senator at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

“Why is ‘Rocket Man’ [Kim Jong Un] talking to Trump when he’s never talked to anybody else? Because he knows Trump means business. Why is the Taliban at the peace table? Because they’re being kicked in their ass. Why is the caliphate destroyed? Because Trump let the military do its job. Why is Iran on the run? Because Trump knows a bad deal when he sees one.”

For Graham, the play is rather transparent. He’s up for re-election next year, and snuggling up to Trump helps soothe his party’s right flank that always suspected him for pallin’ around with mavericky John McCain.

We’ve seen this with Republican officeholders across the country and in Michigan.

Lisa Posthumus Lyons

Then-state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto) was horrified after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out in 2016 showing Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. She wrote on Facebook that “demeaning women and disrespecting others is unacceptable behavior” and the Republican “has not earned my respect or my vote.”

When she joined Bill Schuette’s GOP gubernatorial ticket last year, however, Lyons declared she supports Trump “and the policies that are coming out of his administration. You cannot argue with the results that we’re seeing.”

It’s true that Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and slew of conservative judicial nominations — not just on the U.S. Supreme Court but throughout the federal bench — have certainly warmed the hearts of many a Trump skeptic.

And many Republicans seem to be enjoying the freedom to embrace bigotry out in the open, like the DeVos family-backed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) who, while running last year against African-American Democrat Mike Espy, said she “would be on the front row” if the supporter “invited her to a public hanging.”

President Donald J. Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, November 8, 2018 | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, Flickr

But there are still some Republicans squeamish with Trumpism for various reasons. No worries. Most of them — probably a greater percentage than in 2016 — will vote for him anyway in 2020.

Why? Because Democrats are still so much worse. These conservatives will somberly agree that Trump billing taxpayers for trips to Mar-a-Lago and other company properties is corruption, but here’s the thing.

Have you heard of this Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lady? She’s a socialist, man.

Fox News has mentioned the first-term congresswoman more than 3,000 times across 42 days. So many conservatives’ Facebook walls are littered with stories about her like crazy stalkers — how dumb she is, how radical she is, how Latina she is. Many of those guys (let’s face it; they’re mostly guys) will also gratuitously tell you she’s hot.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (C) during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. | Alex Wong, Getty Images

Now AOC and I don’t talk regularly, but I think I can safely say that she’s not going to date you. Any of you.

Republicans have found other targets, too. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress — has already gotten death threats, but Trump trashed her anyway with a recent disgusting Twitter video.

And Michigan’s own Rashida Tlaib, the other Muslim woman to make history joining the body, has been another right-wing obsession. The National Republican Campaign Committee already is using her anti-Trump comments about “impeaching the motherfucker” in ads against 55 vulnerable members of Congress.

Not everyone is plugged into politics, but going after women of color is a tried-and-true scare tactic. And historically, Americans have been more frightened of the far left than the far right, despite the growth of extreme right terrorism.

Rashida Tlaib at the reading of “The Vagina Monologues” at the Michigan Capitol, 2012

There’s also the argument is that Trump may be awful and corrupt and bigoted, but Democrats who want to force your kids to use transgender bathrooms and give your hard-earned money away to illegal immigrants are worse.

This is the real culture war and identity politics flareup right now, waged by the Trump administration that enjoys vast power (far more than the lefty professor who gave you a ‘C’ for your pedestrian arguments on the economic causes of the Civil War).

And if that doesn’t sufficiently horrify you, because you’re just not that into politics, there’s always the idea that Washington is a cesspool. So is Trump really much worse than the rest? They’re all crooks, after all.

How do I know this? Why, I’ve been hearing it from sober centrist pundits for years.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.