GOP is "locked" in a "cage of fear" when it comes to President Trump, author says

Author on the "fear" of the GOP under Trump

A new book is hitting the shelves this July that's expected to have both Republicans and Democrats talking. "American Carnage:  On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump" features more than 300 interviews with top Republican leaders of the past 20 years -- including Mr. Trump himself -- and explores how a revolution in the GOP propelled him to the nation's highest office.

Author Tim Alberta, who's also Politico magazine's chief political correspondent, said that while there's a collective instinct to blame President Trump for the state of the GOP and the country at large, that would be a "mistake."

"What you've had swirling now for over a decade are these forces of cultural displacement and socioeconomic dislocation, and an enormous amount of insecurity and anxiety felt by a lot of Americans of all political persuasions," Alberta said Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

And while his campaign may have alienated elite Republican voters, it didn't end up significantly harming him. "In politics, for every action there's an opposite, equal reaction – and so while bleeding some of the more college educated, traditional, suburbanite Republicans, he was able to still win an election by appealing to a lot of traditional, downscale, rural… Democrats who had never voted for Republicans, in many cases," Alberta said.      

And while Mr. Trump's populism swept the election, many Democrats are now wondering if GOP lawmakers will challenge him on what many have called nativist and racist ideas.

Alberta said they shouldn't expect much. "To be a member of the modern Republican party, today's Republican party circa 2019, is to pledge undying allegiance to Donald Trump or else, " Alberta said. "So you are very hard-pressed to find any Republican on Capitol Hill who is going to openly disavow the president or challenge him in any significant way."

"That said, you get these folks behind closed doors – and especially if you get a couple of Bud Lights into them, they'll tell you chapter and verse about how much they dislike the president and how much they loathe the president," Alberta added.   

"Isn't that the very definition of cowardice?" asked "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil. "To talk behind closed doors but not take a stand?"

"Oh it's duplicitous," Alberta responded. "But that is what the book tries to convey… what you are seeing on Fox News or what you're hearing on local talk radio or what you're hearing from some of these members at a town hall back in their districts is not what they actually feel. But they are sort of locked in this cage of fear as it relates to the president, and they understand full well that if political self-preservation is the name of the game, they cannot afford to cross Donald Trump."

Many of these lawmakers feel similarly towards Vice President Mike Pence, Alberta said. "The vice president has been unflinchingly loyal to Donald Trump, and that is what the president has expected from his vice president," Alberta said. "But in so doing, Mike Pence has alienated some of his staunchest allies in the Republican Party – and I see it very difficult for him to have the seat at the table in the Oval Office that he once hoped to have by virtue of his service under Donald Trump."

"He is just, obviously, one example. There are any number of Republicans – prominent, high ranking Republicans, from Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, on down -- who were once very critical of Donald Trump…" Alberta said, "but when the time came to either pledge allegiance or leave the party, everyone made the same decision."

That decision has everything to do with votes, Alberta said. "You have an entire Republican governing class, who when they saw Donald Trump's ascent, they realized that they'd had it all wrong," he said. "A lot of Republican voters, and a lot of voters writ large across the country, were in the middle of sort of this populist reckoning, this revolt, that was coming."

"When all of these other Republicans began to realize just how forceful it was," he added, "they realized that they either needed to get with him or get out of his way."