After blasting away at Hispanics, Muslims, “the blacks,” women, the media, an opponent’s wife and father, a federal judge, the parents of a dead U.S. soldier, a journalist with a disability, a Miss Universe, Rosie O’Donnell, Megyn Kelly, Samuel L. Jackson (Google that one), the National Football League (“soft like our country”), a war hero senator (“I like people that weren’t captured”), the Ghostbusters remake (“with only women—what’s going on?”) Elizabeth Warren, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“her mind is shot”), Pope Francis, Crooked Hillary, and on and on and on, Donald Trump has finally homed in on a target that richly deserves everything he can throw at it: the Republican Party.
If you have been as horrified as any normal person at most of those outbursts, this is one to sit back and enjoy. And while I doubt that Trump can ruin the GOP, because after all a political party that’s been around for 150-plus years is a pretty big thing, he can come close. And boy has the party earned the right to be ruined by him.
It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating because Republican leaders still won’t acknowledge it, at least publicly: They created Trump. They started creating him 30 years ago when Rush Limbaugh and the others began working their audiences into states of rage against feminists and black people and immigrants, and they validated Rush and the gang by going on their shows and sucking up to them.
They created him throughout the 1990s, as the rage industry became a monster.
They created him after the 9/11 attacks, when they said everyone who didn’t agree with the Bush administration hated freedom.
They created him when Obama birtherism got rolling, which Hillary did not have a hand in (it was started by an obscure Republican office-holder in Illinois), and which very few of them had the decency to disavow. And they created him by slamming the door on immigration reform, opposing “amnesty” with militant stridency, creating the mood among their voters—who responded like Pavlov’s dogs when Trump said “rapists” last June—that vaulted Trump to the top of the charts.
They could have stopped him last year, if they’d had the courage. A group of influential Republicans could have stood up and said, “No, people; we don’t want this.” Reince Priebus could have rounded up the other top-tier candidates and said, “Gentlemen, for the sake of our party, we must unite behind one of you.” This is far-fetched I admit. But it wouldn’t have been impossible.
I sure bet Priebus wishes now he’d tried. Outwardly, he’s still all-in for Trump: Monday night, after the video tape, after Trump threatened to put Clinton in jail, a clear and shocking violation of the Constitution, Priebus said the RNC and the Trump campaign have “a great relationship.” But inwardly, if Priebus has any moral bearings left in him at all at this point, he must be quaking at the thought of a Trump victory, since he would go down in history as America’s Franz von Papen. Those of you who know what I mean... know just what I mean.
So now we have the matter of Trump’s Tuesday tweet torrent:
• “Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!”
• “Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.”
• “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”
• “Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win—I will teach them!”
• “The very foul-mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!”
Monday, McCain joined what in panting media shorthand is usually called something like the “long and fast-growing list” of Republicans who’ve withdrawn their support from Trump. Looked at one way, the list is indeed long. It includes about 15 GOP senators. But another way of saying it is that the list does not include nearly 40 of them. It includes around 25 GOP House members, which means it does not include about 215. It includes a half-dozen governors, but does not include more than 25. Adding it all up, among senators, House members, and governors, a hefty 85 percent still officially back this man who is obviously unqualified and hasn’t a small-d democratic cell in his body.
They know they’re stuck with him. Some who are candidates this year and have comfortable enough leads in the polls over their Democratic opponents—McCain is one of these—can afford to distance themselves. But most of them need his voters. This is why New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte preposterously called Trump a “role model” at her debate with Maggie Hassan. It was a moment of complete moral self-cancellation—you could see the gears desperately churning, “How do I say he’s not a role model without offending his voters, whom I need?”
It’s why North Carolina’s Richard Burr Monday night expressed continued support for Trump. Being a Southerner, Burr went with the sure-fire Southern recipe for wading through such muck and defended his stance on the grounds of his own Christian charity: “As a son of a Presbyterian minister, my dad always taught me that when people ask for forgiveness, you should give it to them. He did that, and I’ve certainly forgiven him.”
So Trump still has most of them. But 85 percent isn’t enough for Trump. Nothing short of 100 percent is ever enough for him. Dictators have wiped out whole populations over that last 15 percent. Trump doesn’t have that power, but he does have the power to turn his furious base on the weak-kneed quislings and Girondins who are undermining the revolution. He’s exactly the kind who’ll burn down the village even if it means his flesh smolders with everyone else’s. Bring the gasoline.