Elected representatives who think they’ve threaded the needle between supporting Donald Trump and preserving their political brands (to say nothing of their essential humanity) are wildly wrong about their political futures. The formulation of “I support the Republican nominee, but…” isn’t going to save you from the forces on the left, or the new Trump GOP.
With five weeks to go, most of you are locked in a state of denial while Trump tears your party down around your ears. Friday afternoon should be a perfect example. The Party of Lincoln is defending the candidate of “grab them by the pussy” as it plunges toward political peril unlike anything we’ve seen before.
All the sweet “we’ll be OK” fantasies your consultants are selling you don’t reflect what’s coming in the news over the next few weeks, and then what comes after November. They’re telling you that after the election the GOP can treat Trump like that weekend in Tijuana of Which We Do Not Speak. Their genius idea is that they’ll simply issue a report, hire re-branding experts, and do exactly what led us here in the wake of 2012’s failed campaign autopsy.
Clean hands, business as usual, and “Trump who?” is their shallow, dumb counsel, and many of you are buying it.
Instead, let me give you some real talk.
Republican supporters and endorsers of Trump are in political peril in every direction. Why? Whether Trump wins or loses, Republican Members of the House and Senate aren’t pure enough for the seething mass of nihilist rage monsters Trump’s Republican Party has become.
At the same time, you’re smeared with the fetid stench of Trump’s catalog of voter-repellent pathologies. Watch how the Democrats and the media will happily remind Hispanics, African Americans, college-educated voters, women, young voters, and most higher mammals how you decided to stand with Trump Republicanism.
You, the alt-reich and David Duke, Senator. Enjoy.
Did you think your little cute rhetorical games will save you from blistering, vicious Democratic attacks and media coverage in 2018 or 2020? Did you think your wink-and-a-nod to your friends in the DC press will get you a pass from the future you helped create?
Do you think anonymous leaks to Politico or the Washington Post or the New York Times about how disappointed you are and how strongly you expressed your reservations — behind closed doors, of course — about Trump will save you? Those are the old rules from the old Washington.
They won’t. Your public posture was a bended knee and puckered lips to Trump and Trumpism, and that’s the frame of your public image in future races. You may think it’s unfair for them for them to say, “David Duke and Congressman X both endorsed and supported Donald Trump” but it’s irresistible — and, most unfortunately for you — effective.
Republicans ran against the sins of Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy for a generation; Trump will be an ever greater gift for Democrats for years to come. Good luck slithering out from that one with the emerging anti-GOP coalition, post 2016. If the other side did something this amazingly stupid it would be political malpractice not to destroy them with it.
Consider the case of Ted Cruz. In the Republican primary, Cruz stayed in the fight until the ugly end; constantly willing to take Trump’s abuse and slander with a smile, but the former conservative superstar was still loathed by Trump’s party. Though Cruz showed a moment of spine at the GOP convention, his recent capitulation should have redeemed him with Trump voters, right?
Hardly. Cruz is now in a no-man’s land; he’s locked himself into a room with people who loathe him and will gleefully destroy him at the first moment. He didn’t have a lot of friends in the old GOP to begin with, but now he’s a lonely, tragic figure. The look on his face while he phone-banked for Trump from the Texas GOP offices said it all. The GOP establishment will never accept him, the Trumplicans will never accept him as one of their own, and conservatives are left heartbroken and confused about how quickly and violently his star has fallen.
The example of Ted Cruz should teach every endorser of Donald Trump a lesson: No matter what you do, no matter how abject your worship of Trump, nothing suffices when it comes to the new Republican party he’s created. The bastardized version of authoritarian statist “conservatism” led by Donald Trump, and the forces he’s unleashed are coming for you.
You may avoid them this cycle, but in the next and the next and the next, you’re their target. No matter how much you abased yourself to Trump, no matter how hard you yelled “MAGA!” it won’t be enough.
Oh, Congressman… I’m sorry… you didn’t break that code yet?
Let me help you: Trump’s voters hate you with the fire of a thousand suns, and now there’s a profitable media ecosystem to feed their irrational but very real hatred. When this is over everyone aside from a few members from the deepest of deep-red districts will become the targets of Fox, Stormbart, Rush, Hannity, and Klan Koulter.
They’ve monetized the destruction of the traditional GOP, and if you think they’re about to shut off that gusher of cash, you’re even slower on the uptake than I thought. Trump’s voters aren’t just a slurry of burn-it-down nihilists, white-nationalists and rare Pepe fetishists, but there are enough of those now to make your life hell, and a whole new media environment to grow more of them.
So many of you have said to me in private, “But I’m afraid of them…they’ll primary me. My next election…”
Here’s a spoiler: they will.
“But I supported the nominee!” you’ll cry as they file lunatic fringe primary candidates against you.
“You weren’t vocal enough,” they’ll growl. “You called him ‘Donald’ not ‘Mr Trump’ in an interview.”
“But I endorsed him by name! Not everyone did…” you’ll whimper as they close in on you, rabid, spittle-flecked and seething at a dozen town hall meetings.
Others will scream themselves hoarse, “You WAITED to endorse him until he WON the primary, you RINO cuck globalist.”
“You criticized him once. You’re a TRAITOR,” they’ll shout, red-eyed, irrational and implacable as they fill your social media with white-hot craziness.
“But…I’m a conservative! I’m a good conservative!” you’ll bleat as the dead space in their eyes tells you once and for all that they’re not.
Think your donors will save you?
Good luck. Enough members of your caucus are infected with the Trump virus now that they’re going to make being in leadership an agonizing game of political chicken and donors love stability more than anything. Major donors are on the sidelines this cycle, and their risk aversion is growing. Think they’re going to swack checks for a party and candidates now stained by the anti-trade, anti-competitive, backwards stupidity, and white-nationalism embodied by Trump Republicanism?
Guess again. For the major donors, not about you; it’s about their brands, and the Trump brand is about as viable as Jeffrey Dahmer Breakfast Sausages.
Think your policy ideas will save you? The Ryan reform proposals were bold, smart, and necessary. The Troll Party hates them. You still don’t get it; Trump’s Troll party isn’t conservative. It’s statist, authoritarian, and frankly driven by racial and ethnic animus. Those that don’t flatly oppose those policies are dreaming of an American economy from the fifties… the 1850s.
They’re not interested in reform, conservative or otherwise. They’re interested in revanchist fantasies, where the educated and the ethnic are punished for success, or for the mere desire to live the American Dream. They (and their hermetic media) pretend this is based on a chain of outrages and insufficiencies on your part, but it’s really just their desire to burn down the world to finally say, “See? I did SOMETHING. I showed THEM.”
Do you think, as so many members in House leadership confidently assert, that you’ll “Make Trump the House’s puppet” if he’s elected? You forgot that Trump’s fifth-column in the House will be there to sabotage exiting leadership from January 22nd on. Let’s be honest: your record of moral courage and political strength viz Trump inspires exactly zero confidence that you’d resist Trump’s excesses in the Oval Office for a hot second.
The rich irony for Republicans covered in Trump’s political ichor is this: Almost every day he gives you a reason to say, “No more.” Almost every day he says or does something only his base adores, but that poisons our future, and your electoral prospects in the years to come. If “grab them by the pussy” isn’t enough to repulse you and give you a clean, sane exit from the Trump nightmare, I can’t help you.
This is a center-right nation, and since the GOP has become Trump’s Troll party, it’s left millions of Republicans and conservatives with nowhere to go. It may well be past reform. It won’t die all at once, but as the hyenas to its left and its angry right edge tear at the carcass and gnaw the bones, Trump and Trump-style Republicanism will open a market space for a conservative party worthy of the name.