By now it should be obvious to everyone not morbidly addicted to Fox News that the entire Republican Party, from the Senate to the House, to the state legislatures, has cast its lot with the fortunes of Donald Trump, for better, or, more likely, for worse, without regard to what happens to this country as a result.
The shocking decision of Republican Senators Graham and Grassley to issue a criminal referral not to any member of the Trump Administration but rather to the man who compiled the damning dossier on the actions of Trump and his campaign; the non-stop efforts by House Republicans to sabotage and re-direct the Democrats’ inquiries into Trump’s potentially treasonous collusion withe the Russian Federation; the slanderous attempts to discredit the Special Counsel charged with uncovering the facts about that collusion—these are all signs of a Party that has made a conscious, collective decision to abandon the rule of law, if that law imperils the Presidency of Donald Trump.
To those of us who remember a country where respect for the law, as well as respect for the office of the Presidency, was ingrained in both our national consciousness and national identity, the total abandonment of all principles of decency by the Republicans and their embrace and tolerance of the staggering incompetence and almost certain criminality of Donald Trump has been disheartening to say the least. Paul Krugman of the New York Times , however, argues that it was just a matter of time before the GOP revealed its true self to the nation:
The answer, I think, is that the cynical bargain that has been the basis of Republican strategy since Reagan has now turned into a moral trap. And as far as we can tell, no elected Republican – not one – has the strength of character to even attempt an escape.
The cynical bargain I’m talking about, of course, was the decision to exploit racism to advance a right-wing economic agenda. Talk about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, then slash income taxes. Do Willie Horton, then undermine antitrust. Tout your law and order credentials, then block health care.
Racism has been the central component of the Republican Party’s electoral strategy since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Up until the election of Donald Trump, who based his entire campaign on the explicit demonization of non-white Americans, the GOP managed to sugarcoat that strategy by selling it as something with a less offensive name (“state’s rights,” “welfare reform”) because they felt constrained by the sensibilities of the American public.
For more than a generation, the Republican establishment was able to keep this bait-and-switch under control: racism was deployed to win elections, then was muted afterwards, partly to preserve plausible deniability, partly to focus on the real priority of enriching the one percent. But with Trump they lost control: the base wanted someone who was blatantly racist and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else. And that’s what they got, with corruption, incompetence, and treason on the side.
And finding that their overriding political goal of enriching the tiny donor base that keeps them in power (for that sole purpose) tied to the fortunes of someone who in addition to his gross incompetence and criminal contempt for American institutions was also an unabashed racist, the Republicans, Krugman argues, had very little choice except to embrace Trump for their own survival:
[T]hey’re stuck. They knowingly made a deal with the devil, and can’t back out.
More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved.
That’s why we are seeing this stunning embrace by nearly all Republicans in the House and Senate of what is proving to be wholesale criminality and probable Treason. They’ve made the cold calculation that undermining the entire fabric of the country is less important than saving their own skins. They won’t respond to arguments or appeals based on morality, legality, or decency. They’re far beyond that point now. As Krugman points out, there’s only one way to stop such a menace from destroying our country:
Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.
The process of removing Trump and the Republicans who are enabling him starts here.