As many of you may know, over the last few days Donald Trump has been the subject of media scrutiny after he claimed that federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Mexican ancestry will result in him having a bias against Trump when he presides over a case related to Trump University this fall.
Regardless of what your opinion is on this issue, it may not matter in the coming months.
I’m saying this because it won’t change Trump’s overall reputation (which was established well before those comments were made).
I’m also saying this because right around the same time, Trump made another decision that could well damage his reputation with his own support base (something that his “Judge Curiel” comments will not and never do).
On June 4, Trump made his first Congressional endorsement, and it was for Republican Congresswoman from North Carolina Renee Ellmers, who was facing a serious primary challenge in her district.
Why would this damage Trump’s reputation among his support base?
Well, let’s take a look at Ellmers’ background.
Per Conservative Review, a website that keeps track of votes cast by members of Congress to show how conservative or liberal they are:
“WHAT YOU DON’T SEE ON ELLMERS’ SCORECARD
Budget, Spending, & Debt
- Ellmers has voted to raise the debt ceiling two times for a total of $2.405 trillion. One of those votes was in favor of the largest increase in the debt ceiling in American history. (House.gov)
- Ellmers not only supported the Budget Control Act of 2011 that increased the debt limit, she also helped whip support for the deal, saying “It’s not 100 percent of what many of our very conservative colleagues want, but it is about 70-75 percent. This is not about who’s the most conservative. This is about common sense.” (Modesto Bee)
- Ellmers defended raising the debt ceiling without sufficient corresponding cuts by saying, “Sure we added to the deficit … But that vote was all about getting our bills paid.” (The Daily Haymaker)
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Foreign Policy & Defense
- Ellmers supported U.S. military intervention in Libya. “The violence against the people of Libya by Muammar Qadhafi is unacceptable, and it must end. The United States stands with those who seek freedom in that country and around the world.” (Politico)
- Ellmers supports reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, claiming the Bank helps to “create American jobs and expand our trade. The Export-Import Bank is a key driver in re-building the US workforce in industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas, aerospace, agriculture machinery and mining … It would be foolish to discontinue the US Export-Import Bank when our economy needs all of the help it can get. Our foreign competitors would simply fill the void and use their own rapidly expanding export import banks to finance deals for their own industries, putting our companies at competitive disadvantage and jeopardizing American jobs. I will continue to fight for free market policies that protect our job creators and protect American taxpayers from unnecessary burdens.” (Ellmers.House.gov)
Health Care & Entitlements
- Ellmers has given up on the fight to repeal Obamacare, focusing instead on reforming the law. She claims her shift is due to people getting used to the law. “I don’t want to make it seem as if we’re just taking it away and there’s not going to be something there to replace it.” (CQ)
- In 2013, Ellmers opposed the defund Obamacare strategy, claiming it wouldn’t achieve the stated goals. “Should we stop #Obamacare? YES! But @Heritage_Action’s strategy w/ Continuing Resolution is WRONG … Common Sense says defunding 3 months of HHS admin costs will not kill this impending economic disaster of a law.” (Twitter) In 2011, Ellmers was an enthusiastic supporter of the maneuver (National Journal).
- During the 2013 government shutdown, Ellmers charged conservative groups like Heritage Action for America with using the defund Obamacare fight as a fundraising tool, without having the best interests of the Republican Party at heart. “Those groups only care about raising money, they want Reps back in the minority in the House.” (Twitter)
- Ellmers supported a move by leadership to sidestep concerns over a “doc fix” bill, which would have exploded Medicare spending. Leadership brought the bill to a vote on the House floor without warning, allowing it to pass by voice vote with only a few members present. In their defense, Ellmers said, “I do believe that leadership was just as frustrated as members were on this issue. It was just a bad situation. I just hope that moving forward we can do a better job.” (Roll Call)
- Ellmers favors legalizing illegal immigrants already in the U.S. “If an individual wants to come to this country to work, to provide for his family and contribute to his community, he should be allowed to do so. Our focus should be on his intent, not his circumstance … We must also acknowledge that these people have lived in our communities for years and are a vital part of many farms and businesses right here in the 2nd District … The best course of action is one that provides an earned legal work status that would not be given indiscriminately. Instead, it would be contingent on some combination of paying a penalty, admitting to violating the law, and verifying identity. Only after this legal work status is obtained can individuals have the opportunity to begin the naturalization process … This is about solving a problem that can be fixed only through a responsible and realistic approach.” (Fayetteville Observer)
- Ellmers opposes the idea of self-deportation, saying, “It is not practical, it is not common sense, to assume that 11 or 12 … million people are simply going to pick up and leave our country. It is not possible because they have built their lives here, they have built their families here.” (News & Observer)
- Ellmers opposed a 2011 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, calling the legislation too broad by including civil unions. Ellmers supports civil unions between same-sex couples. (The Hill)
- Ellmers led the opposition to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks (Washington Post). After removing her name as a cosponsor of the bill, Ellmers whipped opposition to its passage, claiming her change of heart was politically motivated. “I have urged leadership to reconsider bringing it up next week … We got into trouble last year, and I think we need to be careful again; we need to be smart about how we’re moving forward. The first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn’t be on an issue where we know that millennials — social issues just aren’t as important [to them].” (National Journal)
- Ellmers has said that her male colleagues are better equipped to discuss certain policy issues, and that they should be mindful of making sure to speak on a level that woman will understand. “Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that … We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.” (MSNBC)
- Ellmers is at the center of rumors swirling around Washington alleging she carried on a years-long affair with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Many suspect the letter pushed McCarthy to withdraw from the race for Speaker of the House. (Roll Call)
Political & Electoral
- Ellmers is a loyal defender of John Boehner’s (R-OH) bona fides as a conservative. She has said that before coming to Washington she believed Speaker Boehner and his leadership team did nothing to stand up to Democrats, but “when I got here I realized that wasn’t the case at all. I was told he wasn’t conservative. He is conservative. And that’s what I tell other people in our discussion.” (The New York Times)
- Speaker Boehner has returned the favor, singing Ellmers’s praises: “Renee has made quite an impact in our conference and in her freshman class because she speaks her mind and doesn’t get bogged down in the political games that often grip Washington. I am proud of the work she has done and know that because of her conservative, commonsense values, she will continue to play a leadership role.” (The New York Times)
- Ellmers has also claimed self-preservation as rationale for her support for Speaker Boehner, telling constituents back home, “Look. He’s [Speaker Boehner] my boss. How successful am I going to be at work if I am always causing problems for the boss?” Upon realizing her misstep, Ellmers attempted to explain. “Actually, you folks are my boss. Still — we have a lot of important issues facing the country. How are we going to get ANYTHING done in Washington without working together?” (The Daily Haymaker)”These positions make her sound fairly liberal for a Republican, don’t they? Many Trump supporters seem to think so. I know, because I have read the comment sections in articles on the matter on conservative websites such as Breitbart. Ellmers’ positions on immigration in particular sound like they would repulse Trump supporters. So, why did Trump endorse her? Trump himself has stated that he needs her help to pass his agenda through Congress, but some believe the real reason may be related to the fact that she was the first woman in Congress to endorse him.
In that case, Trump apparently endorsed a politician who doesn’t share his political views in order to help his campaign. For a candidat who rails against the political class, he doesn’t sound too much different than them here. But the question is, will it help is campaign? Looking at the comments in articles on the matter on sites such as Breitbart, I highly doubt it.
Some supporters have even gone as far as saying that he has lost their vote over this.
If you are a Trump supporter, you should be hoping that Trump does not repeat this move in the future.Considering that Ellmers lost the primary, it is now apparent that Trump’s endorsement does not guarantee a win.
He is not infallible, and if he expects to win, he needs to learn his lessons fast.
Conversely, if you oppose Trump, you should be crossing your fingers that he does repeat this move. This can be a game changer, whether he realizes it or not.
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Cover Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)