Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute has gotten a lot of attention — most of it critical and even satirical — for her Post op-ed about why she might be “forced” to vote for President Trump.

In brief, her case is that the Democratic Party, whose presidential nominee has a record of centrism and compromise going back nearly 50 years, is controlled by the “extreme left.” But the Republican Party, whose nominee is Donald Trump, is not controlled by the extreme right. She concedes that there are “horrible nasties” on the right. She even acknowledges: “These execrable gun-toting racists have received too much tacit encouragement from Trump.” “But,” she blithely asserts, “they do not represent the mainstream of the Republican Party or guide the choices of the vast mass of Republican members of Congress.”

Wait. What? Pletka admits that the president encourages “gun-toting racists,” but somehow his views “do not represent the mainstream” of the party that he leads? How can the views of a candidate supported by 92 percent of Republicans not represent the party? Even if that were true, it would be an argument for voting for Republican congressional candidates rather than for Trump. But it’s not true: Several in-depth studies have shown that the primary reason Trump won in 2016 was because of his appeals to racial, rather than economic, anxiety.

Not all Trump supporters are racists, to be sure, but even those who are not appear to be indifferent to the president’s blatant racism. Either way, the entire Republican Party has become complicit in a presidency that depends on crude appeals to the fears of White voters. Trump warns that if he loses “America’s suburbs will be OVERRUN with Low Income Projects,” champions Confederate monuments, calls Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate,” denies the existence of “White privilege,” and tells congresswomen of color to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

If Trump’s racism doesn’t represent “the mainstream of the Republican Party,” then the mainstream should denounce him. But it is nearly impossible to find a Republican elected official who will criticize Trump for anything.

CNN just tried and failed to get Senate Republicans to call out Trump. Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) was asked if it troubles him that Trump is holding indoor rallies during a pandemic. “No, it doesn’t,” he replied. Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) was asked if it troubles him that Trump told his supporters to vote twice — a felony in many states, including North Carolina. “I’m fine with the fact that they check up on whether their vote counted,” he replied. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (Ga.) was asked if it troubles her that Trump admitted to Bob Woodward that he deliberately downplayed covid-19. “No. It’s fake news,” she replied. When asked the same question, Sen. Martha McSally (Ariz.) said: “You guys are awful.”

This is the ugly reality of the modern Republican Party, which is cringingly servile to the occupant of the Oval Office. There is no longer any non-Trumpified Republicanism on offer. Trumpism is the mainstream. Even mild criticism of the great leader is extirpated. The whole party is in lockstep with a president who, in Pletka’s own estimation, not only gives encouragement to racists but is also guilty of “chronic mendacity” and “erratic, personality-driven decision-making” — and whose policies “will encourage conflict and terrorism” and “hurt the U.S. economy.” (This is the case for Trump?)

Indeed, the longer that Trump stays in office the crazier the “mainstream” of the GOP becomes. A recent poll asked Republicans about QAnon, the insane conspiracy theory that holds Trump’s opponents are a cabal of child-molesting Satanists. Thirty-three percent said QAnon is “mostly true,” and another 23 percent said “some parts” are true. At least 80 QAnon believers have run in Republican primaries this year — and some have won.

A QAnon believer in Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is virtually certain to be elected to the House. Greene has said that the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon didn’t really happen, called President Barack Obama a Muslim and George Soros a Nazi, and suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) should be executed for treason. Trump called Greene a “Star” and “a real WINNER,” while the House Republican leadership has now endorsed her candidacy.

Tuesday’s election results in Delaware showed why Pletka’s arguments about the two parties are a perfect inversion of reality. The winner of the Republican Senate primary was Lauren Witzke, a QAnon adherent (though she has lately tried to distance herself from the group) who has said the Earth is flat and that Hillary Clinton is guilty of “child sacrifice.” The winner of the Democratic primary was Sen. Christopher A. Coons, a bipartisan dealmaker who has been called “the GOP’s favorite Democrat.” Despite his deviations from progressive orthodoxy, Coons crushed a socialist challenger with 73 percent of the vote.

Remind me of which party is in the grip of “extremists”?

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