April 5, 2018

Yesterday, under the headline "The All-Consuming Tribalism of Trump’s Republican Party, in One 30-Second Ad," Aaron Blake of The Washington Post flagged this spot from the Indiana Senate race, in which GOP candidate Todd Rokita denounces his primary opponents.

Blake's transcript:

I'm Todd Rokita, and here's the truth: We're not going to beat Joe Donnelly with a RINO [Republican in name only].

Mike Braun? He's a lifelong Democrat. He voted for Obama or Hillary. Wow.

And Luke Messer? He plotted with the Never Trumpers to steal the nomination from President Trump. You've got to be kidding me.

I'm Todd Rokita, and I'll proudly stand with our president and Mike Pence to drain the swamp.

Blake finds it remarkable that the ad discusses no issues, only the candidates' relative loyalty to Trump. But I want to draw your attention to something else: the reference to "draining the swamp" at the very end.

I wrote on Monday that I disagree with Jonathan Chait's belief that corruption is Trump's "greatest political liability." Today I see that Micah Cohen and Clare Malone of FiveThirtyEight agree that corruption is the best issue for Democrats to run on in 2018.

I understand the argument: Trump said "drain the swamp" in 2016, and continues to say it today, and not only isn't the swamp drained, it's now centered in the Oval Office. Isn't it likely that many of the voters who heard Trump say "drain the swamp" feel betrayed?

But notice how Rokita employs the phrase. He uses it after denouncing rivals who sided with Trump's political opponents. Unless I'm misinterpreting him, that's what he thinks "drain the swamp" means: getting anti-Trumpers out of government.

Here's what I wrote on Monday:

... to the base, "draining the swamp" precisely meant kicking out Democrats and other enemies of conservatism. If you lurk at right-wing sites, you can see that it's taken on a meaning that has nothing to do with money -- it's about purging the Deep State or Obama holdovers.

Or anyone who's a "RINO" or who "plotted with the Never Trumpers to steal the nomination from President Trump." That's what the swamp consists of. To Trump voters, corruption in his administration can't be "the swamp" because "the swamp" means "whatever is opposed to Trump." It had to do with corruption when Trump was accusing Hillary Clinton of corruption, but that's because it involved her, not because these voters oppose corruption in the abstract.

"The swamp" isn't "all corrupt people in power." "The swamp" is everyone who's not a pro-Trump Republican.

Originally published at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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