Republicans are now the party of Trump, and that's scaring them

"The ­canary in the coal mine didn’t just pass out; its head exploded," one strategist said of Tuesday's losses

Published November 9, 2017 7:59AM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Republicans are still reeling from a series of sweeping defeats during Tuesday's local elections.

The 2017 elections were particularly devastating for Republicans. In addition to losing the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, demographic trends throughout the country found that coalitions of educated suburban voters — the people that propelled Donald Trump into the Oval Office — joined with racial minorities to resoundingly rebuke Republicans at the polls.

"Among college-educated suburbanites, he is a pariah," Chris Vance, the former chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, told The New York Times. This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Charles Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, who told the Times, "Voters are taking their anger out at the president, and the only way they can do that is by going after Republicans on the ballot."

Dent also added that he wouldn't be surprised if more moderate Republicans joined himself and colleagues like Reps. Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey and Ted Poe of Texas in deciding not to run for reelection.

"Do they really want to go through another year of this?" Dent rhetorically asked.

While the Trump White House continued to vacillate between advisers who told the press that the president had become a drag and those who insisted the 2017 drubbing was due to Republicans not passing his agenda, one longtime party strategist made it clear that 2017 was an unmistakable warning sign for the party.

"Donald Trump is an anchor for the GOP. We got that message in loud volume in Virginia. The ­canary in the coal mine didn’t just pass out; its head exploded," Mike Murphy told The Washington Post.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, another moderate Republican who was one of Trump's chief opponents for the presidential nomination in 2016, described the 2017 results as "a repudiation of the politics of narrow. The politics of anger may work for a moment in time, but it does not last, thank goodness."

This isn't to say that all Republicans share the perspective that 2017 was a rebuke of their leader. When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was asked whether he would prefer the policies of President George W. Bush or those of President Donald Trump, he responded, "We already made that choice. We’re with Trump."

Ryan added, "We already made that choice. That’s a choice we made at the beginning of the year. That’s a choice we made during the campaign, which is we merged our agendas. We ran on a joint agenda with Donald Trump. We got together with Donald Trump when he was President-elect Trump and walked through what is it we want to accomplish in the next two years. We all agreed on that agenda. We’re processing that agenda."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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