John Patrick Grace: Trump, his policies have polarized the country

July 3, 2018 GMT

Terry McAuliffe, former Virginia governor and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a recent interview with NBC-TV News, “President (Donald J.) Trump is ruining America.” McAuliffe also has called Trump “an embarrassment.” At the same moment, polls showed 90 percent of registered Republicans support Trump.

In other words, there is a yawning chasm between Trump and his base on the one hand, roughly 40 per cent of the country, and Democrats, independents and never-Trump Republicans on the other.

These two polar opposites clearly are seeing the reality of the current political and social situations prominent in the news with entirely different eyes.

One side, Trump supporters, tout a booming economy with 3.8 percent unemployment, conservative judges being appointed to counter at-will abortions, and progress in reducing the nuclear threat from North Korea.

The other side, Trump critics, see the rise of a reckless autocrat, fracturing of ties with our closest allies (Canada, The UK, France, Germany), cozying up to ruthless leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, both guilty of murdering their opponents and critics by the score. Plus looming trade wars with China and Europe.

The question we should all be wondering about: Can these two sides even talk to each other? Or are they so set in their viewpoints that dialogue becomes impossible to launch - or to develop?

Even among the media it’s hard to cite an anchor or pundit who could monitor an even-handed debate between Trump supporters and Trump critics, though Chris Wallace of Fox and Wolf Blitzer of CNN come to mind.

Some of the most strident critics of Trump’s policies and performance thus far have been longtime Republican stalwarts: former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough, now host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC; former G.W. Bush “ethics czar” Richard Painter, now running as a Democrat for a U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota; and Steve Schmidt, formerly campaign chairman for Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.

Scarborough has labelled Trump “a racist” and said many of Trump’s supporters fit the same description. And prominent once-a-Republican pundit George Will, now an independent, has advocated: “Vote against the GOP this November.”

Why, then, does Trump continue to reel in record-high favorable numbers from Republican voters?

Jeremy Peters of The New York Times interviewed dozens of Trump voters at the president’s campaign-style rallies in various states and concluded that “as critics assail Trump, his supporters dig in deeper.”

“He’s not a perfect guy; he does some stupid stuff,” Tony Schrantz, 50, of Lino Lakes, Minnesota, told Peters. “But when they’re hounding him all the time, it just gets old. Give the guy a break.”

Many Trump voters Peters spoke to have seemingly started shutting their ears to criticisms of Trump, which he said such voters see as “hysterical outbursts.”

Factual reporting frequently ends up making Trump look bad. These voters have an emotional investment in viewing “their guy” as a success.

However, the chaos created at the southern border by Trump’s initial policy of separating asylum-seeking adults from Central America from their children, including kids 3 years old and younger, has given some Trump supporters pause. Stay tuned for future episodes.

John Patrick Grace lives in eastern Cabell County.