Some right-wing Republicans or former Republicans—from Nicolle Wallace and former congressman Joe Scarborough at MSNBC to journalists George F. Will and SE Cupp to GOP strategist Rick Wilson—have been every bit as critical of President Trump as prominent liberals like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, albeit for different reasons. As Wallace, Scarborough, Will, Cupp and Wilson see it, Trump is an embarrassment and a national disgrace who debases the GOP brand.
But most establishment Republicans, on the other hand, are willing to look the other way when Trump embarrasses the GOP—including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who Wallace has denounced as a weak, spineless disappointment for not speaking out. And no matter how vehemently Trump is lambasted by Republican Sen. John McCain for his July 16 summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland or how much California attorney Michael Avenatti alleges that Trump had a sexual affair with porn star Stormy Daniels and paid her hush money to keep quiet, establishment Republicans will continue to tolerate Trump because he is advancing their agenda with everything from the U.S. Supreme Court to tax cuts for the ultra-rich.
Here are five reasons why most establishment Republicans will continue to tolerate Trump no matter how much he embarrasses their party.
1. The U.S. Supreme Court
Ironically, Trump’s alleged affair with Daniels isn’t hurting his popularity with the Christian Right one bit. Far-right Christian fundamentalists and their allies in the GOP establishment love the fact that not only is Trump not nominating liberals to the U.S. Supreme Court—he isn’t even nominating centrists or right-wing libertarians. Trump is nominating severe social conservatives along the lines of Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia—first Neil Gorsuch (who ultimately replaced Scalia), now Judge Brett Kavanaugh (who is likely to be confirmed given the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate). As “strict constructionists,” Gorsuch and Kavanaugh could attack not only abortion rights, but also, everything from gay rights and same-sex marriage to contraception.
2. Lower Federal Court Appointments
Trump is leaving his judicial mark not only on the U.S. Supreme Court, but on lower federal courts as well. The president has appointed 44 federal judges (including many appellate judges) since his January 2017 inauguration, and another 88 Trump nominees are awaiting consideration by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Naturally, Trump has been appointing and nominating hard-right ideologues, and his judicial imprint will last for decades.
Although Trump ran on a pseudo-populist platform in 2016 and claims to adore blue-collar workers, he has favored a tax policy of the rich, by the rich and for the rich—and in 2017, Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which permanently lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and has been described by economist Robert Reich as trickle-down economics on steroids. To establishment Republicans, being embarrassed by Trump whenever he sends out an offensive, childish tweet is a small price to pay for having a president whose tax policy is so generous to the ultra-wealthy.
4. Environmental Policy
Trump appointee Scott Pruitt proved to be the worst administrator the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had in its 48-year history. Like Trump, Pruitt is a climate change denier who has aggressively promoted fossil fuels over green energy—and while that is considered disgraceful at Greenpeace, the Sierra Club or Food and Water Watch, it is a badge of honor in Republican politics. So, establishment Republicans have no desire to alienate a president who shares their contempt for the environment.
5. Health Care
So far, Trump and his allies in Congress have not succeeded in overturning the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, which narrowly survived in a U.S. Senate vote last year. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t try again, or that they won’t undermine and sabotage it at every turn while it’s still on the books. And if Republicans can hold on to the U.S. House of Representatives and increase their slight majority in the U.S. Senate in the November midterms, Trump would gladly sign into law whatever horrible ACA replacement they come up with. Further, even if Democrats manage to recapture both houses of Congress in the midterms, Republicans could abolish the ACA via the U.S. Supreme Court should Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and others decide that it’s unconstitutional and imposes an unfair burden on insurance companies. To establishment Republicans, Trump’s unwavering hatred of Obamacare is much more important than the way he conducts himself around Vladimir Putin or allegedly, Stormy Daniels.