MEMBERS ONLY: The Useful Idiocy of President Trump

by Justin Rosario

While the press has been slowly coming to terms with the fact that Trump’s voters will never turn on him as long as he inflicts harm on brown people, they’ve been more confused by Republicans supporting a madman. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is a clear case of obstruction of justice, especially since Trump generously went on national TV to confess to the crime, yet Republican fell in line instantly.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “it is entirely within the president’s role and authority to relieve him” which ignores whether or not Trump is abusing his power by firing the man investigating him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately hid behind the talking point that Democrats “repeatedly and sharply criticized” the director, another transparent dodge.

As of this passed Friday, just 1 Republicans was calling for a special prosecutor (but only if they also went after Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice to, you know, make it fair), 6  have called for an independent investigation, and 41 have “concerns.” That’s out of 290 Republicans total (238 in the House, 52 in the Senate). 97 others shrugged it off or, worse, supported Trump’s blatant obstruction, and the rest stayed quiet.

But the idea that Republicans are doing something strange or out of character presupposes that they see Trump as a problem. But why would they do that? He’s signing anything they put in front of him because he doesn’t care what’s in it as long as he can brag about a legislative victory. We saw this with Zombie Trumpcare, the abomination that’s supposed to repeal and replace the ACA. Trump was practically dancing about, holding a party with shitty beer in the Rose Garden. He then told the country the bill does the exact opposite of what it actually does because A. he’s a pathological liar or B. because that’s literally what Fox and Friends told him to say. A and B are not mutually exclusive. 

Republicans are fully aware at this point that Trump is human rubber stamp. He’s exactly the president “with enough working digits to handle a pen” that Grover Norquist dreamed of. Sure, he’s a completely erratic imbecile that’s destabilizing the country and the world but as long as he signs that trillion dollar tax cut for the rich and nominates whatever right wing extremist Republicans offer up for the Supreme Court, the rest is just a distraction.

But, you might say, Trump is doing a lot of damage to democratic norms and sullying the presidency? Why would Republicans allow the highest office in the land to be weakened, possibly irreparably so?

You mean the presidency that is becoming increasingly out of reach for the Republican Party? The one that of the last 7 elections, they lost the popular vote in 6? The same office that they needed the Supreme Court and the Electoral College to grant them technical wins to control? That presidency? Yeah, I can’t imagine why Republicans would be OK with decimating the one seat in government they can’t steal through gerrymandering.

It’s important for us to keep in mind that Republicans have no particular interest in governing. They’ve been dead set against the federal government since before I was born. I was only 13 when Ronald Reagan crystallized this sentiment for the nation with his infamous quote, “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” Deregulation is an end in and of itself, not because it “helps” the American people, but because it shrinks the government and weakens it enough to, again with Grover Norquist, “drown it in the bathtub.”

James Carville helpfully added his own quote to explain the Republican obsession with shrinking the government:

Republicans want smaller government for the same reason crooks want fewer cops; it’s easier to get away with murder.

And this is why Republicans are, so far, sticking with Trump. He’s breaking the part of the government they can’t reach anymore without loopholes and accidents and one-offs they can’t continue to count on. Trump is exactly the kind of cognitive, social and ethical acid they need to weaken the executive branch. He’s the perfect manifestation of the right wing creed of “If I can’t have it then I’ll wreck it so no one can.”

Republicans will let Trump rampage in the White House for as long as he can because every day he debases the office makes it that much easier to “prove” the government is broken. The GOP has mastered the long con of sabotaging the government and then running to every camera they can find to huff and puff about how the government can’t do anything right. The result is less than 50% of voters bothering to show up on election day; great for Republicans, bad for democracy.

In the end, Republicans will walk away from Trump like a bad date. They’ll wash their hands of him and feign total innocence just like they did with Bush after his disastrous administration crashed and burned. After the smoke clears, they’ll go right back to attacking the government as the source of all America’s woes and the press, relieved to get back to business as usual, will once again neglect to mention Republicans were the ones that left the mess in the first place. 

I wish I could say that the media will not fall back asleep again but there is simply too much incentive to let the GOP off the hook as they always do. After all, “both sides are guilty” is much easier and safer than holding Republicans accountable for collaborating with Trump. And Republicans wouldn’t have it any other way.