For three-plus years, I’ve been horrified and, at first at least, surprised at how few Republican officeholders have found the courage to stand up for decency, for democracy, for the American constitutional system, and against Donald Trump and the bizarre agglomeration of lying, race-baiting, self-dealing traits that constitute Trumpism. Those who have done so have mostly either left the party or retired from politics.
But what if Donald Trump and racist, ignorant, democracy-disrespecting Trumpism is not an aberration, but is the new normal for the Republican Party because that is what the party has become?
If, as some of us might have wanted to believe, Trump’s 2016 nomination was some kind of a weird, unfortunate fluke, why didn’t someone representing the older, less despicable version of sane, moderately conservative John McCain-ish or even Reagan-ish Republicanism, challenge Trump for the nomination in 2020 and give “real” Republicanism a chance to take its party back?
The answer, according to a chilling op-ed in the New York Times by Adam Jentleson, a former deputy chief of staff for Sen. Harry Reid, is that Donald Trump personifies and epitomizes the current Republican Party.
Jentleson mentions a prescient 2012 book, titled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” by congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, which stated that:
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.
As I mentioned, that book was published pre-Trump, in 2012! I doubt that Trump read it (I don’t believe he’s ever even read the Constitution, which is much shorter).
But, looking back, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” seems to have predicted that the party of Lincoln, of Eisenhower, and even of its 2012 nominee Mitt Romney was ripe to be taken over by an ignorant extremist with little regard for a set of norms that had kept the two major parties within certain important boundaries of Democratic-Republican conduct for a century or more, and that that party would not only nominate him, but follow wherever he led.
Just ask yourself, which president or major party nominee before Trump would have considered a scheme, for the transparently obvious purpose of helping him steal the election, to disenfranchise millions of Americans who only wanted to vote by mail so they wouldn’t have to risk their lives during a pandemic? Even Richard Nixon’s Watergate schemes pale in comparison, at least for shamelessness (Nixon at least tried to keep skullduggery secret).
Yes, there were a few principled Republican members of Congress who retired rather than be part of this Trumpian trend. A few are now openly endorsing the Democratic ticket and even spoke at the Democratic convention, urging Republicans of good conscience to join the never-Trump club, although approximately zero current Republican officeholders did so.
And the departure of all anti-Trumpers from the party simply leaves behind a Republican Party with essentially no resistance to the complete Trumpification of a once-great institution, now prepared to go along with any scheme to steal him one more term, or, as he mentioned this week in his Mankato stop/rampage, maybe a couple more terms after that.
By the way, feel free to watch his Mankato remarks here.