Six months in to the Trump presidency and you need a steady diet of fentanyl, Thunderbird, and head trauma to believe that Donald Trump is a master negotiator, a real leader, or any good at this whole presidenting thing. The national political stress test that is the Trump administration seems designed to force Republicans leaders into contortions that would break a Cirque de Soleil gymnast.
Republican Members of the House and Senate watched their 2017 agenda go down in flames. The money that Republicans planned to cut via Obamacare repeal was meant to fund massive business and upper-income tax cuts. All the winning stopped hard, and even the dead-enders in Congress know Trumpism took a shock this week. The coming months are a menu of misery: a debt-ceiling fight, the increasing evidence and pressure of the all-consuming Russia probe, and the certain knowledge that Trump’s self-destructive dumbassery is the defining news driver of the summer.
Trying to follow Trump’s manic changes of position on the doomed, roadkill-stank of the health care fight was like watching a cat chase a laser pointer. The GOP went into the fight without a real plan to market it, they let industry lobbyists craft it, and then they counted on Donald Freaking Trump to help sell it. Please clap.
As Trump dragged Senators to the White House for a North Korean-style rant, threatened Dean Heller to his face and proceeded to take four different positions on where to go next, Republicans took all the political damage a repeal vote would have incurred with the dubious benefit of having Trump lecture them in the Oval Office on how badly they sold their plan. The few who clung to the idea that the president was about to show some actual leadership on the bill didn’t anticipate Trump giving an interview that would—once again—knock the news cycle into orbit.
Jeff Flake, Dean Heller, and Jeff Sessions all had to learn painful lessons on the cost of being on the Trump Train this week. For Flake, Heller and a few other Republicans, setting themselves on fire for a vote on Obamacare repeal was political poison. Their legitimate fear of their constituents was greater—finally—than their fear of Trump. “Winning over Trump voters” is no longer a sane response to the insanity of your political situation. Many Republican elected still aren’t getting this because they think they can make it work. They stare at Trump’s base-approval numbers, torn between fear and temptation.
To remind my Republican friends for the hundredth time, the Trump base isn’t your base. His supporters hate you as much as Trump hates you. Trump devotees don’t care about shrinking the size and scope of government. They don’t care about the Constitution. They’re not Republicans, except as a flag of convenience. If you haven’t noticed the theme from Fox to Rush and across the rest of the Trump-fanatic clickservative media isn’t “My God, this bill was political death for anyone who voted for it.” Instead, it was “Why won’t Republicans follow Donald Trump over the cliff? What good is a majority if it won’t destroy itself in a vote that 70 percent of the population hates?”
So, to my Republican elected friends, there are a lot of reasons that GOP Trumpism won’t work, but the biggest one is this: Donald Trump hates you. You are, at best, props and extras in “The Apprentice: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” No matter how many times you abase yourself before him, no matter how much you grovel, it will never be enough. The moment you do anything to preserve your own political fortunes, he will turn on you. The moment you deviate from constant service to his colossal ego, you’re going to end up on blast. He has no allies. Only fluffers and foes.
If you don’t see it yet, the clickservative media and the Trump base is fundamentally nihilist. They hate you even more than Trump does. They’re the party of Uli Kunkel, not Ronald Reagan. They expect nothing but the spectacle, the house fire and the sound of glass breaking. The performance art of the one-man show “Red Don” is their only political satisfaction, and like junkies, they’re chasing the political dragon of more stimulation, more chaos, and more destruction. The Democrats are so pathetic that Republicans are the inevitable target of Trump voters’ fury.
Trump’s threats against Dean Heller and Jeff Flake are nothing compared to the epic, world-class humiliation he delivered to Attorney General Jeff Sessions—a brutal, near-fatal whipping of the most loyal dog in his kennel—in Wednesday’s wide-ranging, lunatic interview with The New York Times.
Jeff Sessions—who isn’t out of the woods on Russian connections himself—took a massive personal and political risk by stepping away from the investigation, but in Trump’s eyes, the oath Sessions took as attorney general to serve the law and protect the Constitution is secondary to the blind loyalty he owes King Donald of Orange. Jeff has displayed absolute loyalty to Trump from the moment he joined candidate Trump on stage in Mobile, Alabama, relentless and early defender of The Donald and helped to normalize him with rank-and-file conservatives. Sessions sacrificed his Senate leadership role, and to be frank, his reputation to accept the role as Trump’s attorney general. Loyalty to Trump will always be met with public betrayal and humiliation.
This week we’ve seen Trump in his most loathsome and essential form—an abusive, reckless child demanding more more more and offering not a shred of discipline, loyalty, or responsibility in return. Mommy and daddy in this case are a House and Senate willing to overlook Little Donnie’s propensity to kill small animals, set fires, and mutter darkly about how he’s going to teach the other kids at school a lesson they won’t forget.
In the meantime, how’s that wall coming?