The Atlantic

The Republican Establishment Stands Behind Trump

Of 146 state party chairs and national committee members asked about President Trump's response to Charlottesville, only seven were critical.
Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Trump’s response to the deadly white-supremacist protests in Charlottesville earlier this month sparked a fierce national backlash, drawing rebukes from elected officials, corporate executives, military leaders, clergy, and—according to a new poll—a majority of Americans.

But it appears there’s at least one influential group that Trump can still count on for support: the institutional Republican Party.

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, The Atlantic reached out to 146 Republican state party chairs and national committee members for reaction to Trump’s handling of the events. We asked each official two questions: Are you satisfied with the president’s response? And do you approve of his comment that there were “some very fine people” who marched alongside the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis?  

The vast majority refused to comment on the record, or simply met the questions with silence. Of the 146 GOP officials contacted, just 22 offered full responses—and only seven expressed any kind of criticism or disagreement with Trump’s handling of the episode. (Those seven GOP leaders represent New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, North Dakota, Alaska, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.) The rest came to the president’s defense, either with statements of support or attempts at justification.

Trump’s reaction to the tragedy in Charlottesville played out over four remarkable days, in an episode that has captured the world’s attention, galvanized grassroots opposition, and plunged his own party and administration into political crisis. On August 11, the same day white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters, Trump condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence—on many sides, on many sides.” Facing pressure to offer a more explicit condemnation, on August 14, he denounced “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups.” But the next day, in an off-the-rails press conference, Trump suggested that not all of the “Unite the Right” marchers were white supremacists, and that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the protest.

Most of the Republican officials reached by The Atlantic either claimed they had not heard Trump’s full remarks, or chose to defend them.

“I think there are a lot of people that marched

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min read
The U.S. Is Abandoning Its Interests in Brexit
Gordon Sondland is a busy man. He recently testified to Congress about his role in President Donald Trump’s attempt to extort campaign dirt from the government of Ukraine. That testimony follows from Sondland’s previous deft maneuvering to insert him
The Atlantic3 min read
The Books Briefing: Trapped in a World That Uber Built
The seeds that could grow into the dystopias of tomorrow are being planted right now. Your weekly guide to the best in books.
The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
The Intelligence Fallout From Trump’s Withdrawal in Syria
The chaotic withdrawal from Syria will severely weaken U.S. efforts in the country—and could also be a boost for Russia and Iran.