Anyone who is still waiting for Republicans to be outraged that Donald Trump’s lily-livered betrayal of the United States at the treason summit had best go have lunch. Because that ship has sailed. And honestly, if you’re still worried about whether this, or the next thing, or the thing after that, will bring forth some member of Trump’s top staff who resigns in protest, or a Republican politician who snaps the party out of its blind personality cult … stop worrying about it. That ship sailed weeks ago.
As The Nation explained earlier this week, the treason summit wasn’t just a one-day event, and it certainly wasn’t a one-man event. There was nothing that Trump did that he hasn’t done before. And there’s absolutely no surprise in the Republican reaction—pretend to be offended, wait a few days, pretend all is well when nothing at all has changed.
Because nothing at all has changed. Not only has Trump not apologized for his words or actions—as if any apology could be sufficient—he’s done what he always does. Doubled down. Tripled down. By throwing on more insults at intelligence officials, continuing to refuse to make a clear statement about Russia’s intent to help him in the 2016 election, and continuing to not only cast doubt on Russia’s intent but to attack the leadership of the intelligence community.
Russiagate isn’t just the narrow story of a few corrupt officials. It isn’t even the story of a corrupt president. It’s the story of a corrupt political party, the one currently holding all the levers of power in Washington.
There’s a reason why Republican senators and representatives have been going to Moscow to pay homage. And a reason why more have lined up such trips after Donald Trump did the Traitor Shuffle. This wasn’t new. This wasn’t unexpected. This isn’t only Trump.
The moment when Republicans could be shocked to find that Trump was obedient to Vladimir Putin has come and gone. If there is a “pee tape,” Trump has successfully reached the point where its release simply won’t matter. Because Republicans have gone through the stages from denial of Trump’s actions, to acceptance of Russian involvement, to celebration of how well they’ve broken America.
The Constitution anticipated that Congress would act as a check on an out-of-control executive. But the guys who put that paper together were thinking that the occupants of Congress would be answerable to their states, and their populace. They weren’t planning for national parties, much less a national organization of talk radio, propaganda television, and bot-driven social media that was designed to use fear and loathing to splinter apart the nation along lines of race, religion, and social class. Those constitutional bozos thought that public pressures would force lawmakers to remain lawful, at least en masse. They thought the press could act as an instrument to inform the public an unveil conspiracy. They thought the judiciary could stand aside from the political fray to assure the continuity of rights and institutions.
But it there was a big red buzzer to push, it would have been pushed long ago, because those guys were wrong.
A huge GOP majority backs Trump's Putin performancehttps://t.co/vIcGURzrdj
— Axios (@axios) July 20, 2018
Republicans didn’t watch Trump and think “Man, he looks good, he looks strong, he looks like he’s really pushing back on Russia.” Truthfully, they didn’t even have to watch. For Republicans, support of Trump is now reflexive. It wouldn’t matter if his meeting with Putin included handing over the keys to the White House and an offer to close down the Pentagon. Because, you know, that thing is so costly.
The few muted comments from Republican legislators following Trump’s meeting with Putin represented the handful of GOP officials still just a wee bit nervous about Trump’s lock on the party. They were positioning themselves just in case the actions in Helsinki shook the party awake. That didn’t happen. In broader polls, Donald Trump has not lost one single point of support within the Republican Party following his disastrous NATO trip, his follow-up insults to the UK, or his surrender summit. None of it came even close to generating a ripple among Republicans, much less a wave.
As Axios noted on their poll results …
Every piece of data, and virtually every public action of elected Republican officials, shows Trump will have overwhelming and probably unbreakable party support, regardless of what Robert Mueller finds with his Russia probe.
As it turns out, it was ridiculously easy for a monied few to buy influence at the state level, to leverage that into ownership of the federal government. They didn’t need to build a consensus. They certainly didn’t need a majority.
The indictments made by Mueller just in advance of Trump’s visit with Putin were clearly intended as a signal to Trump and Republicans: There is more here. There definitely are Americans involved in the Russian conspiracy. And there may be direct evidence of actions that altered voter rolls or affected other aspects of administering the election. Any day now, Mueller can be expected to produce indictments genuinely indicating criminal activity in which members of Trump’s campaign—and others—knowingly cooperated with Russian agents in an attempt to affect the outcome of a US election.
Republicans can be expected to shrug it off. More than that. Because there’s a position within the Republican Party that’s gaining strength.
A C-SPAN caller just thanked Russia for "interfering in our elections" pic.twitter.com/wyIBSGc3S0
— jordan (@JordanUhl) July 16, 2018
That position, which seemed laughable in its initial appearance isn’t some outlier. The Atlantic notes that many other Republicans agree with that idea. In fact, the acceptance and cheering on the Russians among the radio talk and alt-right “news” has already happened.
“No,” said Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer at the right-wing news and conspiracy website Gateway Pundit (and a former Sputnik employee). “I mean, I would be cool with it. I’m already there. If Russia was involved we should thank them.”
If it seems shocking to people who haven’t been listening to the radio tell them that anything is acceptable to defeat the snowflake, libtard, brown, untermensch … it’s absolutely not shocking to those who have. This isn’t a shocking new position that’s formed up only in the wake of Trump accusations. For much of the GOP, this is where they started.
When Florida Republican strategist Aaron Nevins contacted the Russian agents behind the name Guccifer 2.0 and began working with them to identify the value and best use of each document, he claimed to not know that he was on the line to the Kremlin. But he also made it bluntly clear that he did not care.
He isn’t convinced the Russians were behind it, Mr. Nevins said, but even if they were, it doesn’t matter to him because the agenda of the hackers seemed to match his own.
“If your interests align,” he said, “never shut any doors in politics.”
Donald Trump told Republicans they would win, win, and win. And as far as they’re concerned, they are winning. Republicans hold the White House, the House, the Senate, the courts … every lever of power. The few voices in the party that have raised even the mildest objection have been driven out, knocked down, or returned contrite to the ranks. Now they can do whatever they want. And what they want to do is whatever hurts brown people, city people, liberal people. If letting Vladimir Putin sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom is a part of that … they won’t just forgive it, they’ll line up to cheer.
The constitutional crisis is over. The Constitution lost.
Assuming there are free, and at least somewhat fair elections in November—which is by no means a given—there may be a chance for a rematch.