Republicans Choose Chaos, Violence, And Election Lies
Before Iowa in 2016, official GOP unease with Trump was palpable; now they love him more than ever
Republicans spent the first seven years of the Trump era trying (with no small success) to create artificial separation between themselves and their leader.
This was a kind of homeostasis they fell into during the 2016 primary, when they believed Donald Trump would lose the general election, but also had poor incentives and limited tools to stop him. The best they could do is act as if he wasn’t really of them. When he won the nomination, they behaved like captives, stuck inside with someone whose company they didn’t enjoy.
It was obviously just make-believe, of course, because they had another option: They could deny him the presidency. If he was really an interloper, they could have resigned themselves to helping Democrats win—passively or actively—and rebuilding after November. People like Marco Rubio apparently hated liberal society more than they wanted to protect America from someone unfit to control the country’s nuclear arsenal. But they at least play-acted as if they were unhappy about it.
This manifested as Ted Cruz telling people at the Republican convention “vote your conscience, up and down the ballot.” GOP leaders and influential conservatives unendorsed (then in some cases re-endorsed) Trump after he got caught on a hot mic detailing his sexual-assault m.o. They blundered their way into the awkward ritual of pretending not to have read Trump’s deranged tweets. They figured out how to be allies of the aspects of Trump they genuinely liked while disclaiming responsibility for the damage he did to the country. It was why they’d beam with excitement at Rose Garden ceremonies where Trump signed corporate tax cuts, then shrug off or quietly abet his extreme secrecy and illegal concealment. As long as they didn’t know what they were covering up, they could play dumb about the truth.
In year eight, something different is happening, and both Democrats and the media should be alert to it. This time around they have a clearer path to expunging Trump. With the Iowa caucuses now in the rearview mirror, they could rally for Nikki Haley the way Democratic elites flocked to Joe Biden when the 2020 primary came down to him and Bernie Sanders.
Instead, they are choosing Trump, without reservation. Many had resolved to support him before the caucuses, and are trying now to edge his challengers out of the race.