If I hear one more well-intentioned but tone-deaf beltway insider speculate about when Republicans are going to turn on Donald Trump, after the latest offense, I’ll scream. Read my lips: move on, folks, it’s never gonna happen. Because they’re all Donald Trump now. After two years of Trump being the dominant force of gravity in the GOP, he hasn’t tempered himself or conformed to governing or even half-heartedly attempted unity. The raging id has taken over the party both politically and policy-wise—the self-proclaimed King of Debt got every fiscal hawk in the House drunk on the deficit, jacking it up by $1 trillion and causing a mass market correction. It turns out the Democrats are the party of fiscal restraint.
But it doesn’t matter. Because Trump is the party and the party is Trump. And being Donald Trump means never saying you’re sorry.
Being Donald Trump means that when the latest in a long string of alienated gunman with ultra-right wing, white supremacist ties shoots up yet another school, you don’t say the words “domestic terror” or “white supremacist” because a big chunk of your electoral coalition is onboard with white supremacy. And no matter how pernicious or poisonous they are, your people are top-of-mind. Same with the NRA, the Republican Party’s deepest-pocketed sugar daddy, which spent tens of millions of dollars to elect Mr. Trump. They get off scot-free, because in Trump-world, it’s loyalty or perceived loyalty first. To Donald Trump, that’s more important than a classroom full of kids who’ll never graduate, and 17 families who will never see their sons and daughters again.
Being Donald Trump means a shrug, a smirk and a pass when one of the guys kicks the shit out of his wife, because, hey, in your world, what’s the big deal? Being one of the guys comes first. And being Donald Trump means having slippery lawyers on retainer who pay off the porn stars and playmates, because, hey, in your world, that’s normal. And surrounding yourself with people who put Trump first is all that matters. But that’s part of the president’s curious id appeal: he speaks to a yawning need especially in American men because he seems to break all the rules they are sick of being told they have to adhere to. Donald Trump gets to screw the porn stars and playmates behind his wife’s back and not get penalized. I hate to say it, but lots of guys out there look up to that and not-so-secretly want to be it. Ergo, President Trump.
Being Donald Trump means twisted logic: a crime isn’t a crime if the crime benefits you, because, hey, who wouldn’t? And a crime is fine if you perceive it as a win. And it doesn’t matter if we were attacked by a hostile foreign power if that attack meant a critical political victory to you or your party. In fact, you’d do it all over again, proven last week by Donald Trump and the GOP’s collective yawn over the urgent Russia revelations aired by Dan Coats, Mr. Trump’s own national intelligence director.
Being Donald Trump means not having the character or wherewithal to know when you’re caught and being stuck in a losing proposition and not caring because you’re fine with burning it all down in a momentary Hail Mary of self-preservation. And it doesn’t matter if the country is losing a battle for its soul so long as you’re getting attention and commanding what passes for respect.
Being Donald Trump means never answering to a higher power or peer because in your estimation, there’s no such thing, though, weirdly, the vast majority of white evangelicals—who apparently watch Fox News more than they read the Sermon on the Mount—think you’re the second coming.
Being the Republican Party means abandoning every principle and core value you claimed you would never negotiate away to wordlessly follow Donald Trump into his rathole of a bunker of lies, debt and disgrace. It also means being so desperate to hang onto your job that you’d break the nations’ fiscal back to give hundreds of billions of dollars away to your donors while getting ready to tell teachers that a buck-fifty “tax cut” (huh?) is something to be grateful for and Medicaid and Medicare members that they’d better tighten their belts so Charles Koch, who gave Paul Ryan’s SuperPAC $500,000 the day after the middle-tax hike sailed through the House, can get a private jet tax break.
All of which is to say, today is President’s Day. We celebrate the greats. But I think it’s time to take an unrelenting look at what leadership means and what character reveals—and a day to think about what every American wants and demands out of their president. Is it a guy who represents what the devil on your shoulder wants to get away with? Or who stands for what you want your kids to aspire to?