A pretty high price, that, but, like a landlord raising the rent because he knows you’re too lazy to move, Trump has dramatically escalated the cost his supporters must pay to stay in his good graces as we approach his fourth year in power. The price came to include overlooking his racist rants (e.g., telling congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from); putting kids in cages; kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other tyrants; abandoning America’s Kurdish allies; obstructing justice and stonewalling Congress; declaring a state of emergency to spend money that Congress has not appropriated for a border wall that we don’t need; lying nonstop; using the presidency to enrich himself; and disparaging the press as “the enemy of the people.”
Now, as the impeachment proceedings have made clear, the price includes turning a blind eye to Trump’s attempt to solicit a bribe from Ukraine in return for releasing military aid — and his disparagement of the dedicated men and women in the Foreign Service, the military and the intelligence community who have revealed his self-dealing.
And yet no price is too high for the Republicans to pay; no sacrifice of truth or dignity is too abject to make. They are on the Trump Train and they are staying on, clinging for dear life, as it jumps the tracks and heads over the cliff. What we have learned in the past few weeks is that there is no limiting principle on the Republican support for Trump — there is no excess he can commit that would cause their support to waver and there is no excuse that they, in turn, will not offer in his service.
To support Trump, too, the party of war heroes such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole and McCain is willing to trash a combat veteran who had the courage to testify about Trump’s attempted extortion of an ally. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) called this hero “Vindictive Vindman,” and other members of her party questioned his loyalty. It tells you all you need to know about the Republicans’ moral insolvency that they evidently prefer service members who commit war crimes to those who uphold the Constitution. (Watch this compilation of Fox News clips — and weep.)
The wretched Republican attempts to vindicate Trump reached the level of self-parody this weekend when Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who makes Sean Hannity’s slavish devotion toward the president seem lukewarm by comparison, actually called Gordon Sondland a “deep state bureaucrat” who “is not a fan of the president.” Yes, this is the same Sondland who gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and continues to serve as his ambassador to the European Union. By telling the truth about Trump’s quid pro quo, he has become an ex post facto Never Trumper — a term of art that Trump uses to describe anyone who does not lie or make excuses on his behalf.
What do they get in return, the Always Trumpers, for their petlike loyalty? Not Trump’s loyalty — witness the way he humiliated and fired one of his original backers, former attorney general Jeff Sessions. (Sessions, having had his pride surgically removed, has now proclaimed anew his devotion to Trump as he seeks to win back his old Senate seat.)
As a reward for their allegiance, Trump keeps handing his followers one poisoned chalice after another. They get judicial appointments — but Trump’s lawbreaking undermines any conservative claim to be defenders of the Constitution. They get tax cuts — but the resulting deficits undermine any conservative claims to be budget hawks. They get pro-Israel policies — but by backing Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian territories, Trump is undermining its future as a democracy. Most important of all, they get to keep power for the time being — but his unethical and unhinged conduct undermines any claim that they deserve to hold it.
Republicans have turned their back on conservative principles to become a cult of personality for an aspiring authoritarian. All voters with a conscience should now turn their back on the Republican Party. For aiding and abetting the president’s egregious abuses of power, the Republican Party deserves to be destroyed from top to bottom. We need a center-right party in this country. What we have instead is a party with no fixed principles that is willing to do anything — no matter how vile — to serve its maximum leader, a.k.a. “the chosen one.”
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