Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post has a message for Always Trumpers: The more love Always Trumpers show, the more dangerous Trump becomes.
You’ve heard of the Never Trumpers. That’s the president’s catchall slur for anyone who criticizes him or at least accurately attests to something unsavory he’s done.
But let’s talk instead for a moment about the true risk to our democracy: the Always Trumpers. These are people such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) and even the once-reasonable-sounding Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), who excuse away any evidence of impeachment-worthy misdeeds no matter how damning.
The Always Trumpers represent a sprawling group of lackeys and co-conspirators, willing to aid, abet and (most importantly) adore President Trump no matter what he’s credibly accused of. Come hell or high crimes, Always Trumpers always truckle to Trump.
It doesn’t matter whether he’s extorting a desperate ally into announcing a fake investigation into a domestic political rival, compromising both that ally’s national security and ours. The Always Trumpers, many of whom were once Russia hawks, will stand by their man.
Many even cheerfully assist him in spreading Kremlin-planted propaganda.
It’s no worry that he’s encouraging war crimes and pardoning war criminals. Those onetime law-and-order fanatics now believe their lawless leader knows best.
He can betray his party’s commitment to free trade by inflicting tariffs that condemn U.S. manufacturers to recession and farmers to bankruptcy. He can then try to tidy up his trade-war mistakes with a ginormous farmer bailout, one that’s now more than twice as expensive as the 2009 auto-industry bailout that many Republicans opposed.
He can find other ways to undermine the GOP’s stated commitment to unfettered capitalism. He dictates where and how supply chains must operate, and weaponizes state power to reward companies that flatter him and punish those that don’t. Companies hoping for merger approval or tariff exemptions must kiss his ring. Or, preferably, grease his palm, with a stay at the otherwise half-empty Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Somehow, those erstwhile free marketers remain Always Trumpers.
Trump can persecute people based on their religious beliefs; he can have affairs with porn stars; he can rip nursing infants from their mothers’ breasts. Even the Bible Belters have buckled, and family-values-fixated Republicans remain perpetual pro-Trumpers, too.
Some Always Trumpers are die-hard cultists, proposing gristly punishments for the president’s perceived enemies (such as death by hanging for House Democrats who deign to exercise their constitutional oversight responsibilities). Others, such as retiring congressman and former CIA officer Hurd, were once considered moderates, or at least statesmen willing to weigh the evidence. Now even Hurd is excusing L’Affaire Ukraine, perhaps so he can preserve his own future opportunities within the GOP.
Trump has been mocked for declaring, as he did in a Monday tweet, that “The Republican Party has NEVER been so united!” The impeachment inquiry, he said of the GOP, is “bringing us even closer together!”
But given the public behavior of Republicans, Trump’s claims of unprecedented party unity appear correct. It’s hard to imagine a Republican Party of yesteryear excusing such inexcusable behavior, simply because the misbehaver is the party’s standard-bearer. (Even Richard M. Nixon lost his party’s support eventually.) Indeed, to be a Republican today is almost definitionally to be an Always Trumper. Any Republican who reveals himself to be merely a Sometimes Trumper, such as Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), gets ejected from the party.
Similar dynamics are at play for Republican voters, too.
Conservatives who don’t approve of the president’s actions are — like Amash — simply leaving the party, with “Why I’m No Longer a Republican” cris de coeur fast becoming a hot new genre of nonfiction. Those who remain in the GOP pledge their absolute loyalty to their boss, especially voters who get their news from de-facto state media. In a recent PRRI survey, a majority (55 percent) of Republicans whose primary news source is Fox News say there is nothing Trump could do to lose their approval.
There are, of course, many reasons to worry about this kind of idolatry.
But the biggest risk is that the more unconditional love the Always Trumpers show, the more emboldened Trump becomes. And the more he escalates his democratic destruction.
Absolved for soliciting political interference from one country, in one presidential election, he asks it publicly of two countries in the next. Forgiven for politicizing law enforcement, he moves on to politicizing the military. Allowed to abuse one immigrant group, or undermine one federal agency, he adds others to his crosshairs. Just imagine what he’ll do if not just GOP lawmakers but also the electorate affirms his behavior with four more years.
Well done, Always Trumpers. If Trump didn’t genuinely believe he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue before, you’ve convinced him he can now.