The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans find themselves back with the same problem they had before Trump

(Tom Toles)

What is wrong with the Republican Party? Basically, everything. But it fundamentally comes down to the fact that its agenda, which is tax cuts for the rich and benefit reductions for everyone else, isn’t what most Americans want.

Republicans have resorted to every trick they can think of to get around this problem. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, ginning up cross-cultural resentments, and chiseling on the truth until they ended up as out-and-out liars trying to bamboozle just enough people to squeak through one more time. They were pretty much out of cons to pull on the electorate in 2016, when who should show up but one of the great con artists in American history!

This explains why the party collapsed wholesale and fell into Donald Trump’s outstretched little hands. Republicans couldn’t fall back on their principles, because they had abandoned those a long way back. Trump was their only play, and so they played ball. But the Trump playbook works only one way. You either keep the steamroller rolling over the obstacles that democracy puts in your way, to some version of authoritarianism, or you falter and let democracy clean up the mess.

Which brings us to today. And explains the frustration and fury President Trump is reportedly stewing in. He can declare that 2018 was his perfect victory all he wants, but he knows otherwise. Toto has pulled the curtain back on him, and what we see now are small hands frantically working the dials and pulleys to little effect. Small hands, and now we also see the very small man. He has only bad choices. He can start to play nice, but it’s a little late for that. A playacting, nice Trump doesn’t appeal to anybody, base or bitter enemy. And it also is not who he is. Alternatively, he can try to double down once more into vitriol and venom, but that act has worn out its welcome in suburban America, which the Republicans need.

Which brings us to the Republicans. The dike of full-government control has been breached, and now accountability is knocking, and their last hope of perceived invincibility and inevitability is demolished. Trump will no doubt try to come up with yet another new variation of his old con game. The Trump Steaks are high. But his problem, and the GOP problem, is the one often attributed to the party’s father: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Republicans have been living the past two years on junk-bond-financed borrowed time.

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