Why congressional Republicans are probably stuck with Trump

People waiting for the GOP controlled congress to act against Donald Trump are probably in for a long wait. The treasonous acts which Trump administration officials are suspected of are what is holding the Republican party together and the Republican base still strongly supports the Trump administration.

Analysts have written volumes about turmoil within the Democratic party since the last election. However, if things had gone slightly differently the talk would have been about the collapse of the Republican party which, just below the surface, is bitterly divided. And it is the email hacks at the core of the Trump/Russia controversy which allowed the Republicans to prevail despite internal differences.

And were it not for the email hacks which the Russians are suspected of launching, possibly in coordination with the Trump campaign, the election almost certainly would have gone differently.

To make things even more complicated, the Trump administration and its policies remain very popular with the Republican base. As of January 30, Trump still enjoyed the support of 86% of Republican voters in Republican congressional districts (and 81% of Republicans in Democratic districts).

It is not clear what it would take to change the minds of Republicans. Traditional media outlets have very little influence there. As of September of last year just 14% of Republicans had confidence in 'the media'. At Donald Trump rallies during the election, reporters were treated as the enemy and the constant stream of bad news for Trump since the election won't have endeared the media to conservatives.

No recent polling is available on how Republican voters feel about the allegations of collaboration between Trump campaign officials and Russia but it is a safe bet that it is different from the perceptions of the public at large. Between 2014 and the end of last year, support for Russia among Republicans had risen from 10 percent to 37 percent (23 points higher than Republican support for 'the media'. Republicans also seem to believe in the 'alternative facts' coming out of the White House. In a recent survey 51 percent of Trump supporters said that the, entirely fictional, 'Bowling Green Massacre' justified the travel and immigration restrictions. If the White House says that the Russia allegations are false most Republicans are likely to believe that they are false.

So how does all of this look if you're a Republican in Congress? The short answer is, scary.

Most GOP lawmakers are bright, educated people. They may perceive the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN as biased but know they are not 'fake news'. However, whatever they believe, their choices are not attractive.

If a Republican in the House or Senate decided that it was time for Trump to go it would mean that they were ready to admit that officials high in their party had committed treason. It would mean conceding the moral, patriotic and national security high ground to the Democrats for years to come. It would mean abandoning the congressional agenda at a time when Republicans control all three houses of government for the first time since the great depression. It would also mean launching a civil war within their party and it would likely mean the end of their personal career.

Republicans know that not acting against Trump could cost their party in 2018, 2020 and beyond. They also know that it is not the will of the people who elected them; the same people who elected Trump. Perceived by their base as disloyal or anti-Democratic and will struggle to survive the next primary battle for their seat or to advance to any higher office. Republican primary voters have been thinning the number of moderates in their party for years.

Congressional Republicans, at least those who concerned about possible connections between the administration and Russia, are literally facing a choice between their party (and their own career) and their country.

Unless the Republican base turns on Trump for some reason, those are the obstacles to overcome. Democrats will have to convince Republicans in congress that it's worth it and they will have to convince more than a few before there is any serious action.

Otherwise Republicans, who have been demographically losing ground for decades anyway, will simply have to live with the consequences in future elections.

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