Hours after brainwashed thugs stormed the U.S. Capitol and tried to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden, a cavalcade of humiliated Republican senators tacitly admitted that they had been appeasing a madman. The supposed election integrity issues that had been material enough for them to object to Mr. Biden’s electors way back at … lunchtime … had suddenly become trifling, and many (though not all) Republican senators who had been planning to vote to reject electors in certain states stood down.
Perhaps the thought of continuing to entertain Mr. Trump’s fantasies after a mob of deranged fanatics attempted a clumsy insurrection was too unpalatable for all but the most grotesquely obsequious senators.
The moral high ground they once enjoyed, admonishing protesters who, for example, looted lipstick from Walgreens during protests over the summer, evaporated the moment rioters took over the Capitol to paralyze the democratic process. No longer could Republican lawmakers chide athletes for taking a knee during the national anthem now that Mr. Trump’s mindless militia had removed an American flag from outside the Capitol and replaced it with one bearing his name. A violent rebellion against the state cuts to the core of the idea of American exceptionalism, and a President who tells its actors “we love you, you’re very special” during the peak of the riot is unmistakably an agitator, governed by his own delusions.
This was the final humiliation for Mr. Trump’s enablers, who have stood by him through his earliest conspiracy theories about former president Barack Obama’s birth to his final tantrum about losing re-election. They have endured personal attacks: Mr. Trump went on a tirade against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2017 over the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, for example. He attacked Senator Lindsey Graham as a liar and a publicity-seeker when Mr. Graham criticized his response to the Charlottesville protests.
They watched him hand out senior White House roles to family and friends, perverting traditional GOP talking points about bootstraps, hard work and merit. They stood by as he defiled the Republican Party’s self-professed reputation as the party of family and morals with his secret payoff to a porn star, his policy of separating migrant children from their parents and that infamous summer photo-op with a Bible, which he arranged by using violence to clear out peaceful protesters.
Under this President, the GOP was suddenly skeptical of free trade and blind to the self-inflicted damages caused by tariffs. The country’s foreign policy became the most isolationist it had been under a Republican president in decades, marked by the shameful spurning of allies (such as when Mr. Trump withdrew U.S. troops from northeast Syria, leaving Kurdish fighters critically vulnerable) and inertia on even direct national security threats, including foreign interference in U.S. elections. Mr. Trump failed to muster so much as harsh words against Russian President Vladimir Putin when U.S. intelligence reported that Russian bounties were offered on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Republicans humoured Mr. Trump when he allocated billions of dollars (partly by bypassing Congress and diverting military funds) to create a border wall he enduringly claims will be paid for by Mexico. They’ve tolerated his laundry list of policy failures, including on health care and comprehensive immigration reform. They voted against impeachment when Mr. Trump was caught withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for personal political favours. And they’ve watched him fumble through an economic and public health crisis that has left more than 350,000 Americans dead.
The one meaningful way Mr. Trump has served his party – by stacking the Supreme Court in its favour – is more of a function of fortuitous timing than anything that could be credibly attributed to Mr. Trump’s leadership. But beyond that, in exchange for their sycophancy and fidelity, Republicans have lost the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, along with the party’s policy outlook, its identity and its reputation in the eyes of Americans all across the political spectrum. Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporters are loyal only to him, which is why they turned on Vice-President Mike Pence when he said he wouldn’t somehow overturn the results of the election.
And so, clad in their best red caps, flag capes and in one case, sweatshirt that read “Camp Auschwitz,” Mr. Trump’s flock stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, delivering one last indignity to the legions of enablers who have tolerated Mr. Trump’s provocations for years. Perhaps they naively thought, and some still think, that staying on the good side of Mr. Trump’s flock would serve them well with their future ambitions. But the present reality is that under Mr. Trump, the Republican Party has lost just about everything, and accomplished little. Complacent Republican lawmakers yielded to Mr. Trump’s unhinged whims for years, and all they really have to show for it is one embarrassing attempted insurrection.
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