Why Don’t Any Prominent Republicans Defy Trump?

I don’t get it.

Let’s take it as a given that everyone in Congress sees that Trump is unfit for office on multiple levels. They see and understand the real threat he poses for American democracy. None speak out. The only ones who have are a few retiring Senators (Corker, McCain, Flake).

Why none others? The most common explanation is that he is delivering on the major policies goals of the GOP. He is all-in with transferring wealth and power to the rich on multiple levels, and… well, you don’t need anymore. Whatever other heresies he may commit, that is the sine qua non of the modern Republican party. And he has done well with those goals. So why defy him.

And yet. The first senator to actively speak out against Trump will likely be rewarded. Trumps approval ratings are in the toilet, and even within the GOP he is not particularly popular. Particularly if a group of Senators (and/or Representatives) take an active opposition against him, they are likely to be catapulted up to national prominence.

Perhaps not. Perhaps they will simply be ground into dust by the Trump and Fox machine. But from a game theory standpoint, the reward is surely worth the risk. Going into 2020 as the opposition to Trump, from within the GOP, is a good place to be. It is not a sure winner, but it is a good shot at winning. That person would also be getting support throughout from Democrats and Independents who are desperate to see the anti-Trump movement get some legs. Even if they lose, they will have speaking fees and book sales for the rest of their life.

It seems like a good gamble. Forget policy and morals, from a strictly greedy venal game theory perspective, there should be a few Senators within the GOP looking to make their bones by resisting Trump. So why hasn’t it happened?

2 thoughts on “Why Don’t Any Prominent Republicans Defy Trump?”

  1. Good post and solid reasoning. But I think the answer has a lot to do with how popular Trump still is among Republican voters – particularly the Republican ‘base’ – certainly much more popular with those voters than the average Republican in Congress, say. So they’re probably making the tactical judgement that they would be punished more by Republican voters than that they would benefit from broader appeal among Democrats/Independents.

    Now, in a long-term, big-picture sense, the upside of defying Trump is almost certainly greater. He’s clearly terrible and clearly on the wrong side of history, so, a few years from now, you’re going to look really good for doing so.

  2. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the most passionate voters usually vote in the primaries, and the general public tends to sit them out. If you’re running on an anti-Trump campaign, you take a risk that you’ll get bumped off in the primary because primaries attract the kind of hard-core Repubs who voted for Trump before and will do so again. You’re not marketing to the rational. You have to get over that hurdle first.

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