Most of us like to imagine we have the self-respect not to forever excuse the hostile and amoral behavior of someone in our lives, be it a friend, family or coworker. Yet the Republican Party seems all too eager not just to excuse the transgressions of but actively boost Donald Trump, a person who has made a career and political legacy out of relentlessly pushing the bounds of law, ethics and civility.
No matter how many times Trump bullied and demeaned Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor endorsed the former president the minute he quit his campaign. Sen. Tim Scott debased himself on stage by standing by as Trump attacked his friend and fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley, suggesting Scott “must really hate her.” Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Senate leadership not known for being part of the wacko fringe, endorsed him, too, after earlier suggesting the party should go in a different direction.
It is impossible to imagine what the GOP seçkine will not forgive or rationalize from the onetime president. He was found liable, by a jury and following a full trial, of having sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll and lying about it and her, not to mention the litany of other credible similar accusations.
He cheated for decades in his business dealings, falsifying records and stiffing contractors. He stole some of the nation’s most sensitive classified documents and stored them, unsecured, in his private estate for reasons that remain cloudy. And of course he attempted to end this country’s longtime tradition of peaceful transfer of power, openly and with zero remorse, if the man even has such a capability.
So he’s a predator, a con man, a national security liability and a would-be dictator. We ask, without any irony, what’s left? Truly, what could Trump possibly do at this stage that would trigger a reevaluation of the wisdom and morality of continuing to support him?
We won’t wait for the result here; if the moment ever comes, count us surprised and relieved, but we won’t be expecting it. The party apparatus exists in thrall to Trump, for reasons of politics and ideology, despite the fact that he has lost the popular vote twice and that party leaders have many times pantomimed wrenching away from his orbit.
This means that the misguided hope that the upper echelons of the GOP will just come around or turn the corner must be finally laid to rest; no matter what, a significant chunk of the party’s decision-makers will stick with Trump, and no overtures or appeals to their sense of propriety or national duty are going to work. Being realistic about that entails insulating the institutions of democracy as much as possible from the damage that Trump and his enablers want to do to our system of government.
That happens when Democrats and what anti-Trump Republicans remain lean on the levers of power to hold him properly to account. The failure to do so with two impeachments and countless other ways has brought us here. The only lesson he’s truly taken away is that if he just pushed harder, he could have really subverted democracy. Letting him slide is not apolitical, but the most abjectly political decision of all.