Dem 51
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GOP 49
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It's Trump's Party Again

That headline is hardly a revelation, but there have been a couple of interesting op-eds in the last few days that speak to the extent to which Donald Trump is setting the agenda for the Republican Party, even if much of the rest of the Party would prefer to go in a different direction.

To start, former representative Adam Kinzinger has signed up to be a CNN columnist. And in his latest, he tackles the question of why, per a recent poll from CNN/SSRS, Republicans overwhelmingly want to abandon Ukraine. After all, this is the party that tends to be hawkish, and it also used to be anti-Russia.

Kinzinger actually has two answers to the question. The first is that Ukraine's progress in the war has been slow. This is not much of an explanation, though. After all, Republicans were happy to back the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War and others when the conflict was much longer and the progress was much slower. Plus, if this was on the mark, then Democrats should be souring on Ukraine, and they are not. Kinzinger himself clearly doesn't really believe in this answer, because he spends a grand total of one paragraph on it before moving onto the 14 paragraphs devoted to answer #2.

That second answer is "the Trump effect," as Kinzinger describes it. As the former representative notes, Trump hates Ukraine and its leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy because Zelenskyy refused to play ball when it comes to smearing the Biden family. Unstated in the op-ed, but also true, is that Trump is either deeply enamored of Vladimir Putin or in his thrall, and is also generally an isolationist. Add it up, and it results in an anti-Ukraine stand for The Donald. And what The Donald says goes, at least with Republican voters. This forces the Republican politicians to fall in line, even if they know that a Russian victory would be bad news for the U.S., long term.

Meanwhile, Elia Nilsen, also writing for CNN, wondered "why Republicans can't get out of their climate bind." The effects of climate change are becoming too obvious and too damaging to ignore, and many members of the party have warmed up (no pun intended) to getting serious about the issue. And yet, what we actually see is continued denial and magical thinking like "let's plant a trillion trees."

The problem here, once again, is Trump. He's a climate change denier deluxe, calling it a "hoax" and rendering his informed scientific opinion that "it may affect us in 300 years." And so, while there are areas where Republicans and Democrats could potentially reach agreement (like, say, investing in renewable energy projects), Republicans in Congress cannot vote for (or even negotiate about) such things. Consequently, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) fiddles while Phoenix burns, posting the hottest month ever experienced by an American city (an average temperature of 102.7 degrees in July).

Figuring out why Trump is a climate change truther is a bit harder than figuring out why he's anti-Ukraine. Maybe he's telling his voters what he thinks they want to hear. Maybe he's kissing up to Big Oil, in hopes they will donate bigly to paying his legal costs his campaign. Maybe he's scared, and in denial. Maybe he just reflexively opposes anything he perceives as woke, or woke-adjacent. Could be any or all of these things.

In the movie The Godfather, Michael Corleone deliberately allows his enemies to grow overconfident, and then reasserts himself with a vengeance, reclaiming total control of organized crime in New York City. That sure looks like what's happened with Trump; it seemed his grip on the Republican throne might be slipping, allowing people like Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley to delude themselves that the crown might devolve upon them. Wrong-o! He's 100% back, and that includes telling Republican officeholders and media members exactly what to think and say. (Z)

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