People generally don’t admit they were wrong. If you disagree with this truism, ask yourself: how many of your left-leaning friends who refused to vote for Clinton because “both candidates are the same” have since expressed a change of heart? That’s what I thought.
There isn’t a subject today that can’t be subsumed by partisanship. We live in an age where we’re so bound to our political commitments, that seldom little is viewed on its own terms without considering the fragile social identities we’ve curated for ourselves. So, when the shortcomings of someone’s world views are brought to light, good luck expecting anything in the way of a concession, let alone a reasoned response.
Trump & McConnell
The Republican Party, which has a habit of lauding Trump during those fleeting moments when he offers a “presidential” gesture, are more often stuck in the unenviable position of being forced to repudiate him each and every time he opens his mouth and says something idiotic. Never did I imagine I’d see the day where Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Mitch McConnell and the Bushes Sr. and Jr. (and even Orrin Hatch) would become voices of reason in the room, as they were in response to Trump’s stupefying inability to rebuke Nazis and the KKK when a white nationalist-led protest turned tragic in Charlottesville, Virginia. But here we are.
He’s given them a lot of material this summer, from his recent pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, to his threats of shutting down the government in response to Congress’ refusal to pay for his border wall, to his Kim Jong-un parody act to meet North Korea with “fire and fury,” to his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or to cut off vital payments to health insurance companies. There were his numerous attacks on federal judges and the media, and his penchant to insult even his most ardent supporters on Twitter. Then there’s the general air of toxicity he brings to the White House, where staff turnover now resembles third shift of a Waffle House.
It isn’t simply that Trump is impulsive, egotistical, intellectually incurious or a compulsive liar. It isn’t just that his words and behavior are so repulsive his entire business advisory council abandoned him. The real problem for the GOP is that Trump has failed to deliver on his promises to those who put him in the White House, and indeed, has failed virtually every presidential test presented to him. Ever since he began campaigning two years ago, the million-dollar question has always been: what’s a bridge too far? How far will the rule-of-law be bent, how many bridges will be burned until Republicans finally decide that enough is enough?
The issue presents a paradox. Short term, it could be argued that the President’s penchant for chaos has benefitted no one as much as the Republican Party. Trump has galvanized a fringe element of voters who’ve ensured the GOP’s legislative agenda occupies Congress for the time being, so it’s little wonder why Republicans have begrudgingly stood by him. And in the unlikely event that Trump is booted out — if either the 25th is invoked or if Mueller’s investigation discovers the mother of all smoking guns — well, Pence is in. You could make the case that the Republican Party wins either way.
The problem, however, is that Trump has empowered Congressional Republicans at the peril of their own party. He remains popular among his base because he’s America’s ID; his core supporters feel validated, finally given a pulpit in a system they presume is rigged against them; he affirms every belief they hold dear — be it on the media, immigrants, terrorism or political correctness — so they won’t concede what are obvious flaws in his character or admit that the constant dysfunction in the White House is anything other than normal. Trump’s inability to act anything remotely resembling “presidential” is precisely why they voted for him in the first place.
The fact that Trump’s followers view lying and sandbox braggadocio as virtues underscores the irreconcilable rift that’s grown between the White House and Congress. Few conservatives recognize their own party anymore; they’ve seen the GOP become a haven for white supremacists and are witnessing the highest office in the free world devolve into an operation so morally bankrupt that publicly trash-talking the Senate Majority Leader or the Attorney General purely for ratings is now on the menu of acceptable political strategies. Their only options at this point are to distance themselves from the President at the expense of potentially being hammered in next year’s congressional elections, or to continue averting their eyes from what is clearly a crisis of leadership at the expense of their own credibility and the future of the country. The spectacle they created is now burning down their house.
Facts are dispensable casualties when our identities are on the line, so it stretches credulity to expect that those who voted for Trump would come to their senses and express sudden regret over the man they put in the White House. It’s a fool’s paradise; who better to lead them than someone who eats well-done steak with ketchup and wears a baseball cap with a suit? Let’s hope it’s a different story for our Republican leaders. They’re the only hope we have at this point from keeping Trump from doing something truly dangerous.