How do Americans feel about President Trump’s attacks on Canada?
Julie: The fact that the president is targeting the prime minister and targeting Canada as a country is really sort of the distillation of how he is different from any president we’ve ever seen.
Some people really regard it as dangerous because if you think of Canada as somehow antithetical to what’s going on in the U.S., you’re basically jettisoning a lot of history and a lot of common experience and a lot of common values — decades of a relationship that has been pretty foundational.
Jonathan: When he is thinking about Canada, Trump doesn’t have in mind this centuries-long relationship, the blood that American and Canadian soldiers have shed in so many wars. He’s thinking about how can our country get ahead, how can we beat the other guy. And the other guy in this case just happens to be our closest friend and ally as well as neighbor.
What’s the overall mood in American politics right now?
Astead: Polarized. We are at a moment in which I think both sides have rarely been further away from each other.
Another takeaway is that real cultural clashes are happening. The game of politics is no longer existing outside of things like culture or outside of the questions of who we are as Americans. Now it’s really baked in there. You have a president who just likes talking about domestic policy and also weighs in on the cultural event of the day. Whether it is what N.F.L. players are doing on the field or whether it is what the latest celebrity said at the Oscars.
Jonathan: Tribal. The driving force now is what political scientists call negative partisanship. People are more energized in opposition to the other side than they are in support of their side. Which is why they’re willing to sort of fudge a little bit when it comes to principles and policy issues if it means sticking to and staying loyal to their team.
Are Americans developing a kind of scandal fatigue around Mr. Trump?
Julie: People’s threshold for taking this stuff in is really skewed right now; people don’t know how to process all of these revelations. I mean there’s George Papadopoulos: Who’s that guy? How does that all tie in? Is it part of the Mueller thing is it not part of the Mueller thing? What does it have to do with Russia?
I think the tendency in these situations is for people to tune it out.
Astead: I agree but I would caution against saying it doesn’t matter. We see President Trump having kind of consistent approval ratings, but we don’t know whether these type scandals are actually dampening what could be a better rating.
Are any issues rising to the top of the midterm campaign?
Julie: I’ve been to several rallies with President Trump. He tends to bounce around a lot, he doesn’t like to stick to his script. But what he always brings up — always, always — is this controversy over N.F.L. players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. That has nothing to do with any policy. That’s just a cultural issue that is a way of him saying to his base: This is who we are; this is how we identify ourselves. And people really respond to that.