What the Washington Post bills the last stand of the Never-Trump brigade could just as accurately be called the death throes of the former Republican Party: With the retirement of the last few whimpering voices of Trump opposition, House and Senate Republican lawmakers have now purged themselves of anyone that might unnecessarily upset the petty blowhard that now defines not just their party, but their ideology.
That ideology? Whatever Trump wants is now what Republicans want too. Death to his enemies! All glory to his private clubs!
“It’s my belief that where he’s taking our party is in a dangerous direction, both in electoral consequence, which we saw with the midterms, and, more significantly, with regard to the conservative movement,” said [Rep. Mark Sanford].
Mind you, Republicanism did not have very far to fall. It was the widespread adoption of conspiracy rhetoric that allowed a fathead like Donald to latch onto the movement as just one more grifter wandering in to fleece the rubes. It was the ritual burning of Bush’s would-be compassionate conservatism at the stake that allowed the party to at long last adopt a new stance, declaring that the government doing anything for the poor or refusing to grant anything to the rich was now to be declared “socialism,” or worse. It was the relentless promotion of anti-intellectual vapidity, turning Fox News into the world’s biggest crackpot chain letter, that convinced voters that anyone with a lick of expertise in any given field was, by definition, not to be trusted.
None of that, however, necessarily predicted that party leaders would go all-in on barely veiled corruption. That is their own invention. From aggressive gerrymanders to voter-suppression efforts to court-packing to the Bush-era efforts to restaff the Justice Department along partisan lines to the current sore loser rounds of suddenly stripping governmental power selectively from whatever elected positions Republicans have lost, the party long ago decided that it was democracy itself that was the root of its problems, and something that needed to be curtailed if the nation was to be saved from the scourge of the wrong people voting for the wrong things.
When Sen. Mitch McConnell, faced with revelations that a hostile foreign government was behind a gargantuan propaganda effort to prop up the Republican nominee over his less-pliable opponent, told the administration that he would have no part of warning the American public of these acts, that may have been the moment when party leaders hitched their wagon to something much worse than vote-bending. If democracy needed to be whittled down to achieve conservative aims, is getting a bit of on-the-sly foreign assistance truly that different from, say, making it a wee bit more difficult for minority groups to elect a representative member of Congress?
That may also have been the point when the party tied itself, inextricably, to Trump as the leader. From that moment on, Trump could not be allowed to fail, and every top Republican Party official, elected and not, has been devoted in the two years since that day to dismissively huffing that each of the many scandals that may have bought down past elected officials, from self-dealing to cabinet scandals to incompetence to tax evasion to campaign finance crimes to witness tampering to a bit of light treason here and there, are perfectly reasonable actions that only malcontents and unpatriotic agitators could get worked up about.
And so now the Republican Party is the party of self-dealing, and cabinet scandals, and incompetence, and tax evasion, and campaign finance crimes, and witness tampering, and light treason, simply because not being any of those things would put the party in jeopardy.
The bits about retiring Sen. Jeff Flake having momentary, passing objections to these things, as regular elements in newspaper coverage, obscure the point. The same goes for Sen. Bob Corker, or Sanford, or each of the other willingly or forcibly retired conscience-havers that make the paper in sporadic gasps. It is not noteworthy when retiring Republicans point out, in egregiously delicate terms, that the sitting Republican president is a moron surrounded by criminals; it is noteworthy that among hundreds of top party officials, they are the only ones willing to whisper those things.
And are heckled for it. And condemned. And, of course, forced off the stage.
Whatever the special counsel’s investigation turns up, about either Trump or his motley collection of Republican arch-grifters, they are crimes of the party, not of individuals. The collaborators are every talking head who dismissed self-dealing in government as Perfectly Reasonable, or each party functionary to publicly declare that getting a bit of espionage-backed assistance from a foreign power hostile to this nation is a boost that any reasonable American might welcome, if given the chance. If a charitable foundation is, in fact, a pass-through for petty desires of the upper classes, so be it; if our top government officials are required to route decisions through a politburo of a wealthy man’s golfing buddies, then that is conservatism now.
The impotent musings of a few retiring objectors might make for a historical footnote, at best; the cooperation of the Republican Party apparatus, collectively, and financially, and even ideologically in order to support whatever rickety framework of power can be tied together and forced upright is the rather more important bit.
Lies are good now, by the way. The press secretary of the governing administration of the United States can blatantly and egregiously lie to the American public and it is Good, now. It is the experts who point those lies out or the non-experts who might stumble across video footage proving the opposite, that cannot be trusted.
At this point, this is just tiring. Truly, what else can possibly be said? How many times must it be repeated? Trump is not Republicanism, but Republicanism is Trump. It was bent to fit, and will be bent to fit further, and still more, and at some point either it will snap in half or, worse, bend the nation to match itself. When Trump is gone, Pence will take up the mantle. When Pence is gone, another will take his place. The ideology will be whatever the ideology has to be, in any given month, and will change the next. Anyone who argues otherwise is a chump. The efforts to subtract voters from the process, and nullify whatever the voters vote for, will continue. The fury, the seething fury, at anyone but a white man of a certain breeding and vintage holding American power will continue to boil over, overwhelming all else.
It is no longer a party. It is something else, something between an organized crime ring, but lazier, and a frothing radio broadcast, but more ambitious. And it is almost certain that Donald Trump, his family, and his cohorts are going to be accused of a host of state and federal crimes, only to have even that defended by the party, full-throated, and damn the law if the law is against them.