Too Little, Too Late

Brian Beutler writes that Jeff Flake’s Ridiculous, Fake Anti-Trump Rebellion Should Terrify Republicans:

[U.S. Senator from Arizona Jeff] Flake now professes alarm about Trump’s “affection for strongmen and authoritarians,” yet has done next to nothing with his extraordinary power—including a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee—to stop Trump from presiding over a pro-authoritarian administration.

Only a handful of Republicans can boast of having taken meaningful action to contain Trump. That may be changing now that it’s too late. Nearly all of them convinced themselves to hope for the best if Trump won, without expecting or preparing for the worst. They made their peace with a president they, like Flake, knew wasn’t good enough for America, which leaves them enormously exposed if the very things they agreed to overlook destroy his presidency and plunge the country into bitter chaos.

Trump will retain, to be sure, a core of support even if some Republican incumbents inch away. One should be clear, however, that many GOP officeholders either wanted Trump or tolerated him for the sake of a hard-right agenda. Very few opposed Trumpism all the way along – on the contrary, they went along.

Trump’s base of dead-enders won’t yield, but then they never were and never will be the principal focus of opposition and resistance. That principal focus remains Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders (“If Trump should meet his ruin (and he will), it will come from a relentless case against his mediocrity, lies, bigotry, character disorders, and authoritarianism. One needn’t ask why people support him now; it’s enough to show him again and again as unworthy of support.”)

Applying effort mostly toward the top will settle the matter of Trumpism. (Once Union victory was assured, it didn’t matter how assiduously the Copperheads had sought appeasement to secession; their efforts brought nothing. Destroying the Confederacy left the Copperheads with no secessionists to appease.)

When Trump meets his political end, the terms of Republicans’ political rehabilitation, if there should be any, will come not from Republicans themselves but instead with those who were at the forefront of opposition and resistance to Trumpism.

(This will be true across the country, locally, too: the reputations of local officials will be in the hands of those who prevail, of those who will have declared firmly against Trump. The future will write the history of this present conflict.)