Real talk: You ran for office because you’re ambitious as hell, propelled by that unquenchable desire and heady addiction to the great game of American politics. You worked so hard to get to Washington. You survived an endless chain of humiliations: rubber chicken dinners, door knocking, phone banking, precinct and county organizing. You spent months or years of tiresome ass-kissing to local Republican satraps and bore a million rejections from donors as you dialed for dollars to fund that first race and the next and the next.
You clawed and climbed that slippery, dangerous pyramid because you didn’t just want to do something. You wanted to be something. Very few of you had it easy because that’s the reality of politics. The political machines of the past are largely forgotten. It takes a certain shamelessness and boundless ability to shake off rejection and setbacks to succeed in politics. It takes work to move from being someone with a dream of politics to win that first election, then to maneuver and position yourself for leadership, for power, for greatness. No one gets handed a House or Senate seat, and once there, no one rises without a long career of tremendous effort, cunning, and continued ambition.
Look at you now: supine, terrified, waxing as belligerent as a dry drunk if anyone reminds you of the men and women you were when you ran for office, or prods you to live by the rules and principles you have campaigned on, led with, and pretended to protect. Appeals to your principles are outweighed by your fear of President Donald Trump and his mouth-breathing mob.
You’ve shredded every vestige of even pretending to be limited-government conservatives. You’ve abandoned the needs of your districts and states in service to the boundless ego and quicksilver moods of Trump. Warning you of the dangers of a president who has seen his approval numbers tumble into the mid-30s seems pointless. Your Panglossian belief that as long as Trump is strong with the Republican base you’ll be immune to future troubles is seemingly unassailable by reason.
Reminding you that you represent not just the Republican Party or the House GOP caucus or even conservatism seems pointless as well. You may once have believed in limited government, the rule of law, and the essential separation of powers, but now you live in a constant twitchy state of moral and political flexibility as Trump expects you to tug your forelock at his every wackadoo tweet. You went from the party of Buckley and Burke to the party of Breitbart and Bannon. It’s not a good look for you.
You’re chained to the mast now, and the chains are of your own creation. Don’t lie to yourselves. Self-deception is always the most pathetic form of political suicide. So why not be honest about who and what you’ve become? You’re not members of Congress or senators. You’re not representatives of your states or your districts. You’re not fiscal, social, or national-security conservatives. You’re no longer leaders. Like ancient Romans who dined on the Tiber bass that grew fat at the outlets of the city’s sewers, you’re eating shit and pretending it’s a delicacy.
Even the boldest of you still tiptoe around the borders of the problem: Trump is a corrupt statist with delusions of authoritarian grandeur, a mentally unfit tantrum in human form who spends each day shredding the values our republic at home and its stature abroad. Some of you are downstairs servants, whispering behind your hands about how terrible you find Trump as a man and a president, and yet you abase yourselves daily, slaves to his whims and caprices.
The rest of you are like errand boys, bowing and scraping before a mad king, telling the puzzled, angry citizenry that all the ranting, all the failures, and all the lunatic capering at the Twitter keyboard are an ineluctable part of King Don’s 45-dimensional quantum chess game to Make America Great Again. You’re janitors, desperately hosing out a Tartarean monkey house as its resident, the Golden-Maned Howler Monkey, spatters you with his daily excrescences.
I’ve come to believe that even those of you who know you should run from Trump simply can’t. You’re dug in, mentally locked in the downward spiral of enabling and promoting Trump merely for the R after his name. Despite every polling indicator, you believe in the permanence of his approval numbers, and the power of his horde will remain puissant.
Even the Democrats, whose party consistently takes every possible chance to screw up, will likely pick off the slow movers of the GOP pack. If they could get out of their own way and lock in a compelling message, they’d be knee-deep in gore from the political slaughter they could bring down on you. It’s only a reflection of their utter incompetence, tone deafness, issue blindness, and failed leadership that you survive. It’s like being fat vs. being stupid: You can lose weight, but stupid is forever. You still keep believing that Trump’s base alone will save you, and you’re so damn wrong. Only you can save yourselves.
There are many things you can call yourself as the 2018 elections roar toward you. “Forewarned” is one of them.