It will take some time for the aftershocks of the Orlando massacre to fully play out, but at the moment it looks as if the massacre of 49 gay people by a possibly gay– but certainly a registered Democrat — jihadi is bringing Democrats together, while driving an already splintered GOP further apart.
The latest CBS News poll is the most recent of several surveys that find both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton unpopular with their respective parties, but Clinton seems to be pulling Democrats together much more effectively than Trump is uniting Republicans. The poll has Clinton leading Trump 43 percent to 37 percent, or 39 percent to 32 percent with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the mix.
Clinton is supported by 81 percent of Democrats, including 60 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters, many of whom loudly stated during the primary that they would never consider voting for Clinton. Clinton gets 60 percent of Sanderistas even though roughly the same percentage of them (57 percent) say the Democratic primary process was unfair. Only 8 percent of those voters say they support Donald Trump, who has expressed confidence he would be able to win far more of them over.
Trump, meanwhile, gets only 73 percent support from Republicans.
There hasn’t been enough time for polls to fully absorb the impact of the Orlando terrorist attack, but it’s easy enough to see the sense of determination settling in among left-wing voters online.
Writing at the Washington Post on Wednesday, Max Ehrenfreund challenged the notion – widespread among even liberal pundits after the attack – that Trump would benefit greatly from concerns about security. In essence, the analysts cited by Ehrenfreund say that while “terrorist attacks involving international conflicts seem to increase public attitudes that are associated with political conservatism,” they also have a “polarizing effect.”
Democrats, in other words, will feel an urge to rally around the Democrat President and his designated successor. Ehrenfreund also quotes research that suggests “terrorist attacks will mainly help Trump with people who are already likely to support him.”
At the party level, the Democrats quickly forged a political narrative for the Orlando attacks, and pushed it with a unified effort not seen since their near-death experience in 2008, when the financial policies pushed by Democrat heavy hitters like Rep. Barney Frank, Senator Chris Dodd, and Senator Barack Obama nearly crashed the financial system of the entire planet.
You have to give them credit for coming back from that 2008 disaster, and successfully weaponizing the financial crisis against the people who had tried to stop the disaster so swiftly that the media happily savaged the GOP as heartless racists for daring to question the Democrats’ disastrous crusade to help poor minorities buy houses.
A similar game plan has been implemented for the Orlando attack. While it might sound objectively insane – blame Christians, Republicans, and the NRA for a jihad attack perpetrated by a Muslim Ahfgan-heritage Democrat! – it’s been effective at bringing liberals together.
Why wouldn’t it work? No Obama fan or prospective Clinton voter wants to think about how Obama’s national security apparatus missed the Orlando killer, or what’s going on in his ancestral homeland of Afghanistan right now.
The Democrats’ Orlando agenda invites their faithful voters to vent the full measure of their hatred against people they’ve been taught to hate for their entire lives. Some, like the editors of the New York Times, have gone stark raving mad from all the venom coursing through their veins, scribbling indictments for Omar Mateen’s terrorist rampage that don’t even mention Islam, ranting instead about the “corrosive politics” of Republicans who stand athwart the LGBT agenda.
“While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, it is evident that Mr. Mateen was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians,” the Times editors write from the depths of delirium, unable to hear Mateen’s screams of “I did it for ISIS!” and “Real Muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the West!” over the political bloodlust pounding in their ears.
Sure, this stuff is rubber-room nuts – and it should scare the absolute hell out of Americans, gay and otherwise, that one of their major parties is run by people who think this way, the New York Times being the Democrat Party’s in-house newsletter – but it’s very effective at encouraging party unity.
That’s why liberals are so desperate to keep Republicans from making appeals with comparable levels of emotional voltage, about any topic. Liberals are always waiting for the next great moralistic crusade, with hearts thumping in their chests. Conservatives are supposed to hang their heads in shame over the Crusades that happened a thousand years ago.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side of the aisle, the Orlando attack came at a moment (admittedly a rather long moment) of party disunity. Contrast the unity of Democrats behind their “Mateen was a puppet of the NRA!” message with Trump’s apparent receptiveness to Democrat gun control proposals, and the reaction to from many in the Republican base, especially those who have long doubted Trump’s fidelity to conservative principles. Of course, if congressional Republicans cave on gun control, incandescent rage against the GOP Establishment will be rekindled.
There’s also Trump’s penchant for phrasing his critique of Obama in conspiratorial terms that make many Republicans uncomfortable (and, of course, Democrats are eager to accentuate that discomfort.)
The GOP can unite around a sharp, passionate critique of Obama’s appalling national security record and foreign policy, but when Trump says things like “we’re led by a man that is either not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind” and “he doesn’t get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands,” he makes the rallying effect problematic. There are simply large reaches of the Republican electorate – not to mention independents and persuadable Democrats – who really don’t want to throw themselves behind a position like that. At least, not until they know exactly what Trump means by “he’s got something else in mind.”
The time it takes to parse phrases like that, and obtain clarification, is time lost from party unification efforts.
The Democrat line after Orlando is easy for most of their voters to get behind – diversity virtue signaling, plus loathing of designated hobgoblins like the NRA.
The one group that seems to be a little reluctant to fall in line is the gay community. As one anonymous gay activist who declared support for Trump after the Pulse nightclub shooting put it, “I now realize, with brutal clarity, that in the progressive hierarchy of identity groups, Muslims are above gays.”
The Gays for Trump (and Gays for Guns) movement is intriguing, but it’s unlikely to have the mass or velocity needed to crack the Democrat coalition in a significant way. It’s hard for Trump to cultivate renegade Democrats like these folks, or the Sanders voters, when Republican unity is still so far out of reach.
Trump supporters blame that lack of unity on Republicans who refuse to get in line behind their nominee, and those Republicans blame it on Trump. Democrats are speaking with one voice, as their panic over Orlando is replaced by determination, while the current stage of the Republican reunification process involves Trump and his surrogates telling GOP leaders to “be quiet.”
No matter whose fault it is, the odds of a divided GOP triumphing over united Democrats – especially with the immense power of media and government institutions behind them – aren’t good. The first week after the Orlando massacre has shown us that the party in power might be on defense, but they’re playing shoulder-to-shoulder, while the GOP can’t even bring itself to huddle and work out a game plan.