This is not a question about the ideological implications of supporting or not supporting Trump. It is merely a question about the rational behavior (or lack thereof) of a political party when faced with certain facts.

And the facts are these. Donald Trump is monumentally unpopular. His disapproval rating has remained above 50 % (to be exact: an average of 52.1 % across multiple polls) for almost the entirety of his tenure - mind you that other presidents have had worse ratings by the end of their tenures, but nobody has had such bad ratings this early and this consistently as Donald Trump. This suggests that a majority of the population are fundamentally opposed to Trump, to the point where it is hard to see what could possibly change their stance when 2020 arrives.

Further, it may well be argued that a major reason for Trump's 2016 victory was his opposition: Hillary Clinton. An often unliked and untrusted career politician with a plethora of personal scandals, who caused a historical divide even amongst the left-leaning populace, to the point where statistics later revealed that 1 out of 10 Bernie Sanders supporters ... actually voted for Trump (no, seriously).

But will such a scenario repeat itself for 2020? Probably not, given the immense popularity of the most likely Democratic candidates, be that Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, or Joe Biden.

With all that in mind, why does the Republican party not take steps to generate a movement against Trump, so that they can present a more viable candidate of their own for 2020? Is that not the rational thing to do? Trump is almost guaranteed to lose given the current state of affairs which, as argued above, differ significantly from 2016. Supporting him means giving up the most powerful political office in the world to your political opposition: is it not worth it to swallow your pride to avoid that outcome?

So why don't they? Is there political pressure not to from Trump himself? Is there a general lack of viable candidates in the first place? What rationale underlies their actions? Because as of right now, it seems the Republican party is by own volition taking the path towards defeat in 2020.

  • I'm just here to chuckle in retrospect about Beto being one of the "most likely Democratic candidates"
    – Gramatik
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 19:14

12 Answers 12


Because polling data and Trump's approval rating do not tell the whole story.

As right-wing political commentator Ben Shapiro is fond of saying, two things can be true at once: It's entirely possible to both despise President Trump's character, bombastic personality, and divisive rhetoric AND simultaneously appreciate what he has done and is trying to accomplish policy-wise.

Consider the following from a conservative's perspective:

  • Trump's signature campaign promise was to get tough on illegal immigration, and he has done exactly that. Illegal immigration has always been a major concern for the right. Even though his "zero tolerance" policy is heavy-handed (or an outright human rights violation if you're on the left), it has sent a clear, unambiguous message to Central- and South American countries that the US/Mexico border is no longer an open thoroughfare for entering the United States illegally.
  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act dramatically reduced corporate income taxes, which was previously the highest tax rate in the industrialized world. Regardless of whether you think this is good or bad for the economy, it has been a Republican policy wish for literally decades, and it finally got done under the Trump administration.
  • The terrorist group ISIS, which was a major Middle East security concern that plagued the Obama administration, has nearly vanished from world headlines. The U.S. had a large role to play in that victory.
  • US/Israeli relations are the best they've been in decades, and the Trump administration has been extremely friendly towards the Jewish state. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is widely seen as huge positive step among conservatives and Israel's supporters -- especially among Christian conservatives. Other countries have since followed America's lead.
  • Trump held a peace summit in Singapore with North- and South Korean leaders to discus nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula. It was the first time in history that North Korean and U.S. leaders have met face-to-face for talks. And while it remains to be seen what will come of them (North Korea has reneged on its promises in the past), it is nonetheless historic. North Korea has already destroyed some military outposts along the border, and has begun removing land mines from the DMZ.
  • Trump has appointed and continues to nominate conservative judges to federal courts and to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is another campaign promise he has fulfilled. Conservatives who oppose Trump still enjoy the fact that the conservative tilt to the federal judiciary will outlast his legacy as president.
  • Trump is constantly fighting back in the culture war. Despite his over-the-top rhetoric and criticism of "fake news", conservatives have been broadly troubled by left-wing identity politics and what they perceive to be pervasive liberal media bias for quite some time. This is the one place where Trump's rhetoric is a win for him politically among conservatives. Even many people on the right who don't support Trump's presidency tend to agree with him on this, even if they take everything he says with a grain of salt. Some conservatives argue that this reason alone is what got him elected in the first place.

Please note that this is not an overt argument in support of Trump. I am merely laying out the case for why conservatives specifically have not disowned him outright. If you could separate Trump's character and the garbage he craps out on Twitter from the way he has actually governed as President, his policy agenda and accomplishments to date read almost like a conservative dream come true.

Also note that there are a lot of policy disagreements among conservatives as well that work to temper their support; his belief in tariffs and his cozy disposition with world dictators are notable examples.

The bottom line is that, unlike with previous presidents, you can't conflate Trump's popularity and his performance as a governor. As to whether or not he will get re-elected, it all depends what happens between now and then, and on who the Democrats pony up for the 2020 race.

  • 41
    @xyious; Please clarify. 1) what never was? And what part of statement 2 is false? Aside from that, the OP wants to know the conservative viewpoint, so disagreement with anything on the list -- especially "Republican talking points" are irrelevant because those talking points are specifically what the OP was asking about. For example, #3. Doesn't matter if it was Trump or not; only that conservatives believe it was.
    – Wes Sayeed
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 22:24
  • 53
    @xyious This answer is addressing the question with specifics. The accuracy and spin of the claims being made are not being discussed, just whether or not it is a claim Republicans agree with or use when defending a vote for Trump. And, just to clarify a side note, voters don't care about net migration. Republicans, in general, don't even really care about migration. They are opposed to illegal aliens coming to the US. A very important distinction.
    – David S
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 22:52
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    @xyious Nowhere does it say that voters must vote based on reality.... Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 23:35
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    Hey, don't forget eroding trans rights, a recent favorite of right wing politics. Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 19:28
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    Ok then. Mattis among many others have stated exactly this. There are a litany of interviews with soldiers that have been on the ground that state that the game was changed under Trump. Including one where a unit was pinned down, thinking they were going to die, waiting for air support, and under Obama's rules air support was denied. newsweek.com/trump-isis-raqqa-isis-capital-687391 heritage.org/middle-east/commentary/did-trump-really-beat-isis
    – Rig
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 21:51

It may seem like a tautology, but Trump is popular where he is popular. Such is the case with divisive figures. In order to remain in office, politicians in those areas where Trump is popular feel the need to heed the will of their own personal constiuency and embrace Trump.

To be fair, an opinion I share is that some of the popularity that Trump receives in no small part comes from how unpopular he is where he is in fact unpopular. That is to say that those who are ardent Trump supporters like him more because of who he upsets and how he goes about it. People running for office in these areas are more than likely going to embrace and hope to emulate the Trump presidential style because it makes them more popular where it actually matters for them. Someone running for congress from Oklahoma probably couldn't care less what Trump's poll numbers in California are. If he is popular in their district then they will continue to support him.

Further, according to the most recent Gallup Poll Trump maintains 89% job approval within the Republican party. By contrast, Barack Obama's job approval for Democrats in his last week in office was 95% which isn't too far above where Trump is. The two have drastically different approval ratings from Independents, with Trump having 39% most recently and Obama holding 61% in his last week.1

It is highly possible that the so-called "Never Trumpers" in the Republican party are in a tight spot, since they seem to be completely out of step with the rest of the Republican electorate. Many have already fled the Republican party which in cases of states with closed primaries means they have already abdicated any responsibility of helping the party choose the next nominee. Trump's style of always counter-attacking against perceived slights helps to keep all except the most outspoken against him in the party silent out of fear of retribution. This doesn't mean that those who approve of the job Trump is doing wouldn't support another Republican nominee more, but the current signs point to the Republican electorate being solidly behind Trump.

But will such a scenario repeat itself for 2020? Probably not, given the immense popularity of the most likely Democratic candidates, be that Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, or Joe Biden.

I think you could be overestimating those politicians' overall popularity. Donald Trump wasn't supposed to be elected the first time around. I think you make a good point in that Clinton's unpopularity probably did help get him elected, but now that he's in office he is delivering on things that Republican voters want, so why would they switch?

1- For completeness, Trump has 6% job approval from Democrats and Obama had 14% from Republicans.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 10:02

Because traditional Republicans can't credibly convert Trump supporters.

The popular narrative is that Donald Trump's election represents some sort of "whitelash" against Democrats, Obama supporters, human decency, etc. But rich racist white people voted for Romney and McCain too.

We just elected a liberal intellectual African American president. Twice. The people who voted for Obama have not magically vanished.

Trump clearly won on the backs of working-class voters. Of pretty much all races (outperformed the last two Republican candidates among both Hispanics and African Americans). How an outsider managed to capture such a large and valuable demographic is an interesting question in its own right, but I'll give you the Occam's Razor: that demo was being ignored by both major political parties.

Think about it. 50 years ago pretty much all e.g. sitcoms were about working class people. 20 years ago most still were. Now almost none of them are. Working class people have gradually been excluded from cultural relevance. They're not mentioned in media (except as a punchline). For a while they probably didn't really care: they still had enough political clout even as the cultural capital disappeared.

Then the jobs have moved and towns died. Industries changed. No one talked about it, no one cared. A few have used it to prop up a socialist ideology, but I don't think rural working-class Americans distaste for such is citation-worthy at this point. It comes across as blatantly opportunistic: like "you don't like me or anything I stand for or am but you'll gladly use the @#$%storm my life has become to prop up your point that I disagree with". No one on the national scene came at it from the perspective of those people, and if anyone in Washington or New York really cares it's awfully hard to see it from podunk.

Now along comes this guy who says, hey I'm for you, I'm going to fight for you, I respect your point of view, I'm going to focus on you unlike these other yahoos...

And the sad part, for those who don't like President Trump, is that nothing, nothing has changed about that dynamic since the election. Trump is still the king of his domain. Democrats aren't even an also-ran. They haven't made the first attempt to court those people. They have dismissed them as racists and/or opioid addicts. And there are plenty of Republicans who are going to say eh, I don't like him, but I'd still vote for him ahead of the other side. Even as I edit this in late 2019, even with the scandals currently rocking the administration, re-election is sadly the null hypothesis.

On the marginalization of working class voters

There's been some discussion about this in the comments. So to show what I mean, here's an incomplete list of questions that seem (to me, based on living in the Midwest) to be on the minds of working-class voters, no particular order:

  1. What if the evidence for global warming is faked, or even just misinterpreted?
  2. What if a loss of manufacturing jobs destroys American small towns and the culture they represent?
  3. What if that culture is further threatened by waves of immigrants?
  4. Our politicians seem to be an entrenched bureaucracy of people who could broadly be defined as "not us". They're not even pretending to care about us anymore. What do we do now?

In terms of discussion on the national stage, the conversation is pretty lopsided. I frequently see point 4 brought up except the people doing so... aren't exactly the salt of the Earth. Points 2 and 3 are always couched in terms of money (we'll throw them a bone sometime! maybe!) and racism, respectively. It's never talked about in terms of culture/way-of-life. Few are willing to risk the labels that come with the media consensus on climate change. Well, except that one guy...

And I'm frankly not sure what to make of all of this. Because while I'm from a small town, I went urban a long time ago and never really looked back. I'm educated, liberal (compared to them), etc. I'm one of the people they complain about. I've become one of the people they complain about. And I like the new culture better than the old. But I also know people. Good people. And I just don't see a crusader for their culture in e.g. Mitt Romney.

Addendum #2: Why we can't have nice things

I should thank the OP. This question is the gift that keeps on giving. In response to my 4 points above, a commenter responded with

  1. What if it's not? What if airplane jet trails were really chemicals designed to control the population? What if our leaders are actually lizard men? What if nonsensical what-if-questions were actually pointless?
  2. Better not vote for free-market Republicans, because Capitalism says you should find new jobs or fade away. Fun fact, the current administration ended programs to help workers displaced by automation get training for in-demand fields.
  3. People who immigrated to the US are now worried about immigration? That's just funny.
  4. Probably not vote for billionaire con men.

Think about how that sounds to the average middle American. Think about the message it conveys (regardless of whether or not it's true): you're too stupid to know what's good for you. Think about what the most likely response is. Saying that to someone is not going to make them meekly back down. It doesn't even matter if you're right. You think they're going to listen to someone who's belittling them? They're going to hate you, and they're going to react to you by allying themselves with something they know you hate. You (yes you) are actively encouraging people to vote for Trump. Please, please stop.

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    There's good stuff on the wider internet about how the "two Americas" isn't red states v blue states, rich v poor, white v black, but urban v rural. For as long as the majority of Americans are urban and our political system is expressly set up to empower the rural, this is the answer you're looking for. It's not even really a "what if" for the destruction of American small towns. It's happening. To many urban Americans, poverty looks like homelessness and panhandlers, but you've never seen the real depths of poverty until you've seen what happens when the last major employer leaves a town.
    – Alex H.
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 19:10
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    Here's a list of a dozen recent or running sitcoms that disproves the bizarre claim that sitcoms about working class people almost don't exist. The Simpsons, The Middle, Mom, Superstore, Family Guy, The Conners, 2 Broke Girls, Young Sheldon, Speechless, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Mike & Molly, Kevin Can Wait Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 20:06
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    "that [working-class] demo was being ignored by both major political parties." This. Worse: popular left-wing commentators had been bad-mouthing working-class culture for decades even though democrats had relied on that demographic for the second half of the twentieth century. Neither party can credibly offer working-class people what they really want (the economic situation of the 1950s back), because technology (not immigrants) killed off plentiful high-paying, low-education-requirement jobs, but making fun of people with a solid work-ethic and hands-on skills was never going to work. Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 23:47
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    @dmckee And while there's nothing inherently bad with that (change happens), the main concern here is that neither party addresses that issue in the least. The people are concerned, and the only response they get is "stop sitting on your fat lazy asses, you drunkard opioid addicts!" Regardless of anything else, this is just awful, and it shouldn't be surprising that these people respond to a tiny bit of human decency. Again, regardless of whether the policies are actually sound - they finally have someone who listens, rather than lecturing, belittling, shaming...
    – Luaan
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 9:57
  • 6
    @GeorgPatscheider you're conflating two different things (namely the scientific consensus on climate change and the media consensus on what the scientific consensus is). Even if they're aligned at this particular juncture in history, I trust media reporting of scientific data less than zero and hold that such conflation is dangerous. Even a blind monkey hits the dart board once in a while. For a longer treatment of this (if youre interested) see my answer here. Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:44

Elected Republicans have to support Trump, because the people who elected them support him.

Trump may be unpopular in general, but among Republican voters he is not just popular, but very popular. Like second historically only to Bush at the start of the second Gulf War. Those kinds of numbers.

The US is a country where the vast majority of elected officials now live in "safe" districts. This means the primary is a much more dangerous election to most Republicans than the general election. Heck, even in a tossup district, you still have to first win a primary where the only voters are Republicans. Attacking the head of your own party when his approval is north of 85% (which is likely higher than your name recognition, let alone your approval rate), is a great way to commit electoral suicide.

Effectively, with that kind of approval among the Republican electorate, an elected Republican's choices are support Trump, or be replaced by someone who supports Trump. That's it.

  • 4
    Trump isn't "unpopular". His aggregate approval has largely been between 40% and 44% his entire time in office. That is in the same neighborhood of Reagan, Clinton, and Obama during this period in their time in office.
    – Rig
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 20:41
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    @Rig - ...and when they do, they are called "unpopular". That's how this works.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 20:02
  • 6
    so nearly every president in history was unpopular? Sorry, I'm just not buying your definition. Especially when we have Macron in France with an 18% approval rating right now.
    – Rig
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 3:35
  • 2
    @Rig - At some point, yes nearly every POTUS has reached a level where they were being called "unpopular" in the media. If you don't like that fact, I'm really not the person to complain to about it.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 16:53
  • 4
    @Fizz - That's kind of beside the point though. There are two hurdles any official has to clear every election, and the first is the primary. If north of 85 percent of Republican primary voters approve of Trump (which again is approaching record high territory), it really doesn't matter how bad (or good) his general popularity numbers are. The only person who is going to survive that primary is a Trump supporter.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:46

There's an old English proverb that goes, "In for a penny, in for a pound." It is an example of the sunk cost fallacy, basically saying that once we put some effort/money/worthwhile thing into a cause that we can't easily reverse, our tendency is to follow through to the end, for fear of 'wasting' that initial effort/money/worthwhile thing.

The Republicans spent boatloads of political capital and trashed decades of a good reputation for Trump when they saw he could get the things that they wanted from government, and he's been fairly successful at doing so. Unfortunately, Trump, like any good mob boss, requires loyalty and a willingness to get dirty on his behalf, and treats anyone who voices disagreement as an enemy. And as the midterms show, Republican enemies of Trump don't get re-elected. And as for getting dirty on his behalf? There seem to be plenty willing to do so.

So where does that leave us at? The Republicans aren't going to give up on Trump en masse, because that would mean that several of them will likely be charged as accessories to one or more crimes. And they're the only ones with the power to prevent that ending.

  • 5
    As long as you raise the midterms, I observe that the expected and typical Congressional swing toward the party opposite the sitting president's was much smaller than the Democrats hoped or early-on predicted, and candidates for whom Trump campaigned did very well. Surely many factors played into that, but overall it's not supportive of the premise that Trump faces unusually large dissatisfaction from within his own party, and certainly not of the premise that circumstances are ripe for him to be rejected as the party's 2020 candidate. Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 20:11
  • 1
    It was the largest House swing in US history, even without factoring in the uphill battle against gerrymandering. Dems who wanted more than that were dreaming. As for your second point, I didn't state there was any widespread dissatisfaction with Trump, just that those who voice dissatisfaction turn to enemies and get ousted. As for 2020, that's purely academic given the overall legal situation.
    – Carduus
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 20:24
  • 10
    It was by no means the largest House swing in history. 12 midterm elections out of the last 28 exhibited larger losses for the President's party. Some of those were much larger, such as the 77-seat swing in 1922, the 72-seat swing in 1938, and the 63-seat swing as recently as 2010. The Dems may not have been realistic in forecasting a larger one than they got, but plenty did at one time think that their support was much greater and the Rs' much less than the polls ultimately showed. Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 20:40
  • 3
    @Carduus Please check facts on actual results: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_midterm_election - Obama and Bill did worse and they were "more popular" and got re-elected.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 3:01

There's no hard proof for "why", but the following are all reasons stated at one time or another. They aren't mutually exclusive.

  1. High level Republicans don't want to antagonize Trump due to negative consequences from him.

  2. High level Republicans don't want to antagonize Trump due to negative consequences from their electorate who are Trump supporters.

  3. High level Republicans don't want to antagonize Trump due to negative consequences to the party from infighting. Both as far as morale, and opportunity cost (an hour/a dollar spent infighting is an hour/a dollar not spent opposing the other party).

  4. Inevitability. Trump demonstrated that he can beat any even most formidable R opponents in primaries in 2016. It may very well be that people just take it for granted he's inevitably going to win 2020 primaries, so why spit upwind?

  5. Trump actually delivered on many things (see Wes Sayeed's excellent answer for a list). Arguably, more and more important things than R presidents before him. Bush may not have had any scandals and got re-elected, but what exactly did the conservatives get out of it as far as political achievements? (good question to ask on this site, but my impression is "not much in second term").

    To paraphrase, if:

    P(T,E) = "probability of Trump winning general election"

    P(T,A) = "probability of Trump delivering things Rs want"

    P(R,E) = "probability of Trump replacement winning general election"

    P(R,A) = "probability of replacement delivering R agenda"

    the calculation is as follows: is P(T,E) * P(T,A) < P(R,E) * P(R,A) ?

    While you can make legitimate arguments that P(T,E) is less than P(R,E) (someone else is less likely to lose a general election), you can ALSO make a legitimate argument that P(T,A) is far bigger than P(R,A) - some RINO Republican like Romney governing like Democrat Lite wouldn't really be much of a win for Republicans as far as agenda.

  6. Somewhat linked with 4, there are downsides to a non-Trump Republican winning 2020 General elections.

    Due to reversion to the mean, that would almost guaranteed assure 2024 Democrat win (and 2022 Democrat midterm win). Conversely, Democrat winning in 2020 may cause that to revert ala 2014.

    Having an effective (as far as delivering agenda) R President is obviously worth such downsides.

    Having an ineffective R president may not be.

  7. Trump demonstrated in practice that he can win. So, while you can make reasonable argument that he'd be more likely to lose in 2020 than 2016, you can also make reasonable arguments that he will manage to win 2020 more than a competing R candidate despite his weaknesses.

  • 5
    I'm curious as to what you think Trump has actually delivered on. As far as I can see, most of what he's done that either hasn't been blocked by the courts, or that (like trade wars) he hasn't backtracked on are unpopular with the majority of voters. (Of course you have to stick to what he's actually done, not his inflated claims or outright lies.)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 19:13
  • 6
    @jamesqf - see Wes Sayeed's excellent answer.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 19:44
  • 2
    Re "Trump demonstrated in practice that he can win", the midterm elections seem to have demonstrated that wholehearted support for Trump is not all that good for a Republican's chances of re-election. So it seems that for many of them the choice might be between a primary loss to a Trump supporter, or a general election loss to a Democrat.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 17:58
  • 2
    @jamesqf What are you on about? Multiple supreme court appointments. Like a hundred lower court appointments. Renegotiated NAFTA. Large reduction in corporate tax rates that were the highest in the industrialized world. Hard on illegal immigration. That's just a sampling of what he said he would do and what he has done.
    – Rig
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 20:43
  • 1
    @Rig: Court apppointments are hardly accomplishments, as they depend on previous judges leaving. Replaced corporate taxes with tariffs, whose net effect will probably be even greater - typical Trump scam, borrow money and stiff the creditors. (Not to mention not cutting spending.) Talks a lot about illegal immigration, but has actually done nothing. (Though of course if he manages to completely ruin the economy, no one will want to come to the US.)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 21:13

Damage to the Party
Like the asker suggested, Trump could be posing damage to the Republican brand. Anytime Republicans oppose Trump on an issue, he publicly disrespects them. He has attacked current and former Republican politicians, pundits, party supporters, and members including John McCain, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Steve Bannon, Glenn Beck, Jeff Sessions, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Nikki Haley, John Kasich, Megyn Kelly, Karl Rove, Marco Rubio, Charles Krauthammer, the Koch Brothers, the Fox News network, Lisa Murkowski, Sheppard Smith, Scott Walker, and Robert Mueller. Trump has hired and fired some prominent Republicans within the party establishment, including former RNC communications director Sean Spicer, former RNC chairman Reince Priebus, and former Republican senator Jeff Sessions. Some have said the 2018 mid-terms would be a referendum on the public's sentiments towards Trump, and in 2018, Republicans lost the House of Representatives (and by a wider margin than projections predicted) for the first time since 2008, and lost ground on many gubernatorial seats.

There have been many articles speculating that Trump is doing long-term damage to the Republican brand 1 2 3 4.

Beware of Spoilers
One consideration missing from other answers is the effect of spoilers during primaries. In the 2016 Republican primary, there were 12 candidates who ran in the primary, and 5 more in the mix who dropped-out before the primary. By most peoples' view, Trump was most unique among the field, whereas many other candidates were part of the tea party establishment, who either held public office as a Republican, or campaigned in previous Republican presidential primaries; and many of them had extremely similar policy positions and messages. In other words, the other 16 candidates were virtual spoilers or clones of each other. This put Trump in a position to dominate many of the earlier primary races, and this advantage of running against a field of clones would persist until the final three candidates (it's fair to say, at this point, that Ted Cruz and moderate John Kasich were as mutually different from one another as they were from Trump). It's been argued that towards the end of a primary process, some party members will get behind the candidate in the lead and give that candidate a big push so that they have big momentum coming out of the primary. If this is true, Trump's lead in pledged electors towards the end of the primary persuaded Republicans to support him more strongly during his final stretch against Cruz and Kasich.

The point I'm trying to make about spoilers isn't just about 2016, though. The question is... in 2020, will Trump have the same kind of advantage granted by spoilers, or could he have a disadvantage in the form of spoilers? It's always possible that the 2020 Republican primary field could be 4 candidates very similar to Trump (like Steve King, Roy Moore, Matt Gaetz), and only 1 candidate different from Trump's style (like John Kasich, Jeff Flake, or Susan Collins). Part of the reason that I propose this possibility is that more and more Republicans are emulating Trump's politics, meanwhile established party insiders rarely contest the seat of a sitting president. This could mean, in theory, lots of Trump clones, but very few establishment types (like Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley). So... Trump's viability in the 2020 primary might be at risk, but there are no guarantees of that either.

What Else Can Republicans Do?
There are basically two kinds of recourse I know of to remove Trump from office, which are defeating him in a 2020 party primary, and impeachment. Successfully impeaching Trump would required something like 18 Republican senators voting to convict. Any Republican senator in a heavily red state who voted to convict Trump could expect to face certain defeat in their next re-election. Even in swing states, it is certain that they would not win their next party primary as long as Trump's approval among Republicans is around 89%. Impeachment is not a realistic possibility, because political self-interest will trump any evidence of a crime. Another way of removing the president (but this is not entirely up to the RNC, as per the question) is by invoking Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. This would require the action of the Vice President, and the collaboration of the majority of another body (I wonder if its sufficient to have the VP and the majority of the House of Representatives).

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

The most likely route to remove Trump from the Republican brand is to defeat him in a 2020 party primary. Another relevant battleground for this primary is going to be fundraising. A challenger to Trump's seat is going to need to gain favor with prominent Republican donors, and attempt to also court traditionally Democratic donors who want to enable a Trump defeat.

Here are some top relevant donors in the 2018 election cycle according to opensecrets
Top organization Republican donors: Las Vegas Sands, Adelson Drug Clinic, Uline Inc, American Action Network, Senate Leadership Fund, Blackstone Group, and Republican Governors Assocation.
Top organization Democratic donors who also donate substantially to Republicans: None. Some contribute very small amounts to Republicans.
Top Conservative or Moderate Super Pacs: Congressional Leadership Fund, Senate Leadership Fund, New Republican PAC, America First Action, DefendArizona, Club for Growth Action, With Honor Fund, National Assn of realtors, Patients for Affordable Drugs Action
Top PACS who contribute substantially to Republicans (all of these contribute to Democrats as well): National Beer Wholesalers Assn, AT&T Inc, Northrop Grumman, National Assn of Realtors, Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Union, American Bankers Assn, Operating Engineers Union, Credit Union National Assn, Lockheed Martin, etc.
Top Republican individual donors: Sheldon Adelson, Richard Uihlein, Steve and Christine Schwarzman, Kenneth Griffin, Jeff Bezos, and Timothy Mellon.
Top Democratic individual donors who also contribute to Republicans: Michael Bloomberg, Thomas Steyer and Kathryn Fahr, Donald Sussman, James Simons, George Soros, Fred Eychaner, and Deborah Simon.
Although the Koch Brothers do not show-up in any of these lists by name, they are also understood to be a consistently large Republican donor, sometimes in amounts of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Any challenger to Trump will have to lobby the top donors for their support. In the case of the Koch brothers, the sparring between Trump and the Koch brothers may motivate them to back a different candidate. Jeff Bezos is also not likely to back Trump in 2020, due to souring relations, but he was a big backer in 2016. Michael Bloomberg's opinion of Trump may lead him to back a Republican challenger (although he's shown more interest in actually running against Trump in 2020). Trump's attacks on George Soros make it plausible that Soros could back a Republican challenger. Sheldon Adelson seems to be a steady supporter of Trump. While Richard Uihlein has consistently backed MAGA Republicans like Roy Moore, it seems that he may be getting tired of backing losers and may be rethinking who he gets advice from (Uline Inc will also use its money in the same way). Thomas Streyer supports impeachment of Trump, so he will probably support anyone who can credibly challenge Trump. Donald Sussman donated big money to the Clinton campaign to oppose Trump, so he might support a 2020 challenger. American Action Network has been a big Trump supporter. AT&T looks to be at odds with Trump, but they also paid $600,000 to Michael Cohen.

Support of Voters
Anything the RNC does to subvert the Trump administration is likely to incur backlash from the party's voters. Before taking its ultimate action (impeachment or whatever else), the party would first need to launch a substantial public relations campaign to become the voters' higher priority in relation to supporting Trump. The most prominent messaging system between the RNC and Republican voters is Fox News; so Fox News and its owner Rupert Murdoch are in a position to pick the winner of this fight. Fox News's coverage of Trump seems to be consistently supportive of him, barring a few exceptions out of thousands of hours of coverage. However, although Rupert Murdoch has a pretty close relationship with Trump, there is also tension within it 1 2. If Murdoch ever decided to shift Fox News coverage in a direction that prioritized the RNC over Trump, it could eventually pave the way for a big move by the RNC against Trump.

  • There is also the consideration that even if they defeat Trump, a petty unscrupulous vindictive spiteful person with the power of the Presidency who is not above harming everyone to strike back at those who have wronged him, will they be in a state to then defeat the Democratic candidate for President that election? Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 17:59
  • This answer doesn't actually answer the question. The question is why AREN'T Republicans doing anything to stop Trump? All this answer is is reasons why they should, or could, or might.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 15:25

What you asked is very near opinion, so I will use my own opinion as an example. Keep in mind that I am using my opinions as an example, not to "support Trump" but because I think it shows a good example of why Republicans as a whole do not work towards his removal.

At the last election, I did not vote for Trump, though I do not consider myself Republican or conservative, by traditional means, and I even voted for and mostly liked Obama. However when voting, and during the run-up to the election, I was basically in the "Anyone but Clinton" camp. I am still happy that Clinton didn't win.

Now it's a couple of years later, and I am overall happy with Trump's performance as a president. I do wish for a new amendment to the constitution that says President's can't have social media accounts. I do wish he would shut up sometimes, but as far as policy goes, what has gotten done, and what he has worked for is mostly in line with my ideals. Not all of it, but most, and I am happy with that.

In order for someone to replace Trump, they would have to have the same ideals and ability to get things done, that I want done, while at the same time not looking so terrible on social media.

You would be very hard pressed to "sell" me a democrat at all, right now. Even another Republican would take a very special mix.

Do I support Trump? Not really, but I would rather have him than Clinton, probably another Democrat, and likely any Republican. I don't like him, but things are getting done. That's much better to me then nothing getting done.

So if the Republican party was to "oust" Trump, who could they offer in his place to keep my vote.

He has an overall 45% approval rating 1 Bush was at 37% 2 Obama was at 46% 3

Say what you want, he seems to have some support.


You say

But will such a scenario repeat itself for 2020? Probably not, given the immense popularity of the most likely Democratic candidates, be that Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, or Joe Biden.

That seems to ignore the trump card that the Electoral College is. See for example a question here on recent polling; to reuse some material from there to answer this:

In national polls, Mr. Trump’s political standing has appeared to be in grave jeopardy. His approval ratings have long been in the low 40s, and he trails Mr. Biden by almost nine points in a national polling average. But as the 2016 race showed, the story in the battleground states can be quite different. Mr. Trump won the election by sweeping Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina — even while losing the national vote by two points.

Democrats would probably need to win three of the six states to win the White House, assuming other states voted as they did in 2016 — an outcome that is not at all assured.

The Times/Siena results and other data suggest that the president’s advantage in the Electoral College relative to the nation as a whole remains intact or has even grown since 2016, raising the possibility that the Republicans could — for the third time in the past six elections — win the presidency while losing the popular vote.

There is a full year before Election Day, and a lot can change. [...]

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And that's a poll taken in September-October after the recent impeachment developments etc. So even that might not clinch the 2020 elections for the Democrats, given the narrow margin.

As for why not some other Republican as candidate... that's a lot broader question. The counter-question to ask would be: who else? Alas I don't know of polling on other other potential Republican candidates right now, who might do better than Trump in 2020. The opinion pieces in the mainstream media are that his Republican counter-candidates don't stand a chance against Trump in primary.

No sitting US president has lost a primary in "modern history", i.e. since actual primary elections replaced "smoked-filled back rooms". (Gerald Ford apparently came closest to losing a primary.)

  • 1
    Also notable is that no modern president who has faced a primary challenge has gone on to win the general election for a second term. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 17:38
  • @PoloHoleSet - of course it's questionable where the causality lies in that observation (ref: 538 :)
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 15:17
  • @user4012 - True. Do they get challenged because they are not as strong, already, or do the challenges weaken their bids? Chicken/egg. I intentionally didn't try to claim cause for that reason. Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 16:21

Something not mentioned in the other answers is that...

There are only two parties in the US

If the Trump loses in 2020, which is far from certain, the Republicans will simply have to work to regain power in 2024 or 2028.

Consider, for a moment, the viewpoint of the wealthy entities that provide funding for the lobbying organizations that currently influence (and to a certain extend, control) policy in Washington. From the viewpoint of most lobby groups, Democrats and Republicans are almost the same. Thus, they really don't care who is in power, just as long as they fund both sides during elections.

So the power behind all candidates doesn't seem to care if Trump is in power or not, so the Republicans also don't care.

And considering how similar Democrats and Republicans are from the viewpoint of the powerful entities that fund lobbying organizations, it is largely irrelevant who holds power.

  • Well, of course there aren't only two parties. There are generally only two viable parties at any given time due to the structure of US election rules (and the parties in power generally push policies to keep it that way). But realignments have happened (and nearly happened) in the past and could happen again in the future. Some commentators have suggested that Trump could be the catalyst for such a re-alignment, though I think that's still pretty speculative. Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 0:03
  • @dmckee Agreed. I'd like it, but I will believe it when I see it. Also, if there is a realignment, I doubt there would be any changes to bring about more flexibility in this party system. Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 3:59
  • loosesloses Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 21:56

With both gerrymandering and the lack of turnout for primary contests, more and more of the unwilling turnover in elected positions happens from within the party during the primary contests.

By nature, those most likely to turn out for party-internal-only contests are going to be people motivated and invested in the party, which means your more "moderate" voter is not going to be in that group. The party faithful, the loyal, and the more extreme have a disproportionate (compared to their numbers in the general population) voice and control over primary outcomes.

That motivated, loyal, tribal demographic is right in Trump's wheelhouse, and he's not concerned with any traditions of not trying to influence those contests for personal reasons. He prizes loyalty, to himself, more than the GOP, and those who stray from the line he wants to see risk incurring his wrath and instigating his direct involvement in trying to get them replaced.

Those who have questioned him or challenged his tone or means have been pushed out. One of the more obvious examples is former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.

You don't see more because they do fear being pushed out of office. And, while maybe by banding together they could force him out, how many are willing to sacrifice their own political careers, power and clout to do so.

There's also a movie trope that comes to mind, where the western sheriff stands down the mob by promising to, though he will ultimately fail and die standing his ground, taking out the leader/leaders of the mob while doing so. Who wants to be the one who has to take that bullet leading the charge? Even once removed from office, Trump commands enough "base" loyalty that he could probably agitate against GOP members he felt turned on him, and make their re-election campaigns much more difficult.

Ace: What are you going to do, shoot us all?

Gordie: No, Ace. Just you.

YouTube: Stand By Me "Just You" Scene

It's about basic political self-preservation.


Trump's unpopularity stems not so much from his actions, as his abrasive NYC personality. New Yorkers tend to be brusque and abrupt in general, a byproduct of the hectic environment they live in. Trump personifies and in some cases amplifies the less pleasant aspects of that.

So far, his administration has done well in keeping the campaign promises he made - more than a typical president. Many of those promises were nonpartisan, to the benefit of everyone, such as lowering unemployment. And, so far, he hasn't taken any actions that have had a negative impact on a large number of citizens... like Obamacare sending heath care costs through the roof. The tariffs he put in place are designed to persuade other nations not to tax US goods in an inequitable manner, and they appear to be implementing that very persuasion. The EU has already agreed to modify it's taxes, and China is showing signs of making long overdue changes.

While Trump may offend some people, he hasn't hurt the nation economically, and that's what really matters to voters in the end. If you look at the critique of Trump in the media, most of it is fairly superficial, a good deal of it is somewhat contrived or exaggerated - catering to an audience predisposed to believe only bad things about Trump. I was no fan of Obama after he sent my health care bill through the roof, but I never thought that justified removing him from office.

If you ask why the Republicans don't get rid of Trump, it's because there really isn't anything in what he has done, that calls for removal. Those of us who were around in the Nixon era remember the chaos that followed his resignation. Think long and hard before going that route... a lot of unintended consequences.

The closest parallel I can find is the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. No, that wasn't conduct becoming of a president. However, like Trump's acerbic remarks, that situation didn't materially affect the things that are truly important to most citizens: the state of the economy, and how well their personal financial situation is going. And it comes down to: better the devil you know, than the devil you don't know.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; the conversation about whether the Affordable Care Act increased or reduced health care cost has been moved to chat. If you would like to participate in the discussion, please do so in this chatroom. Further comments about this particular aspect of the answer will be deleted.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 11:32
  • 2
    "While Trump may offend people who are predisposed to take offense, he hasn't hurt the nation economically" Increases in the price of steel and aluminum and decreases in the price of agricultural products are directly attributable to his actions. How would you explain to farmers who can't sell soybeans for a profit that they haven't been hurt economically?
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 17:30
  • 3
    "So far, his administration has done well in keeping the campaign promises he made" Tucker Carlson (Fox News): "His chief promises were that he would build the wall, de-fund Planned Parenthood, and repeal Obamacare, and he hasn't done any of those things."
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 17:35
  • 2
    Because he couldn't? You're pretending as if doing those things was a magical button he can press
    – trying
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 12:45
  • @orange Your comment seems to be in response to my last one, if it's not please ignore: 1. I'm quoting Tucker Carlson from a recent interview with the Swiss paper "Die Weltwoche". Tucker Carlson is a well known conservative pundit. 2. "Promises" are things you say you will do, "excuses" are the reasons you give for not keeping promises.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 19:13

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