Profiles in Cowardice


I’ve taken issue with David Brooks of the New York Times on countless occasions here. I rarely agree with him.

But Brooks’ column today is entitled The Republican Fausts. In my post yesterday, I referenced the Faustian bargain conservatives had made with Trump. Not much vapor between those perspectives. Brooks explains the Faustian bargain reasonably well:

Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media.

The dynamic referenced by the clause I’ve bolded overshadows all else. Brooks is dead on, but at the same time he sugarcoated his criticism of Republicans who refuse to oppose Trump. Not surprising. The reality of Republican cowardice is far more sinister.

The voters Brooks refers to as “their voters” are not the country club Republicans who support conservative candidates. Rather, they’re the “basket of deplorables” to whom Hillary Clinton referred in the campaign. Of all the mistakes Hillary made in the campaign, the use of that term to me is the most forgivable. It was honest and it was accurate. If anything, the description was kind. Those Trump supporters actually were beyond deplorable.

But Republican electoral strategy depends on that basket of deplorables. Without them, Republicans can’t win.

So they pander. The practice started with Nixon and has grown more intense over the years. A cheap high evolved into a full-blown addiction. Initially, the pandering was accomplished through dog whistles. Over time, those whistles became more audible. Finally, in 2015, Trump blew the lid off.  He opened his campaign with “Mexicans are rapists” and never let up. Which means that dog whistles don’t cut it anymore.

The deplorables whose support previously was won by being a little less tolerant than a Democratic opponent found a hero in Trump. So much so that pandering to the basket of deplorables now means pandering to Trump, if you’re a Republican politician.

The bottom line? The basket of deplorables gives Trump virtually unlimited leverage. A few tweets and he can turn them against any Republican politician.

And Republican politicians don’t have the political courage to stand up to Trump for fear of losing the deplorable vote. They may be racist, they may be complete human garbage, but Republicans just don’t have the intestinal fortitude to dump Trump and, by doing so, tell his basket of deplorables to F off.

It’s pure political cowardice.

And it’s making Donald Trump far more powerful than he ought to be.


  1. This Faustian bargain goes way back. Republicans have long been willing to pander to racists to win election. Let’s step into the Wayback Machine and visit Arizona Senator Jon Kyl circa 1994:

    An ancient woman clad in a shawl and wearing a long strand of pearls shuffles to the microphone. In a bold voice, she asks: “Isn’t it true that before he got shot, Lincoln was planning on sending all them blacks back to Af-ri-ca? I heard that he really didn’t think that much of em, and that’s what he was going to do.” There is an affirming rumble from the crowd, and someone hollers, “That’s what he should have done!”

    The woman peers up at Kyl expectantly, as does the rest of the crowd.
    Kyl winces, jerking back from the podium as if shot in the forehead. He pauses for a long moment, staring down at his notes, and then smiles weakly.

    “Well,” he says, “I’ve read a lot about Lincoln, and I’ve never heard that.” He cuts the Q&A session short, thanks the crowd and walks back to his seat.

    Later, in the car, on the way to yet another evening campaign event, Kyl shakes his head, remembering the question. “You just want to grab people like that and shake them, and say, ‘Don’t you realize how that sounds?'” he says. “It was an ugly thing to say. But what are you going to do? She was an old lady . . .” His voice trails off.

    “And we need her, and those like her, to win.”

  2. Its not a faustian bargain at all. I didn’t vote for Trump and I predicted that the stock market would go down a trillion if he were elected. But here we are the stock market is sitting at $23.8 Trillion, up 2 trillion since Trump was elected implicitly forecasting that growth will increase from 1.5% under President Obama to 4% under President Trump.

    May or may not happen but for now, the sun is shining.

    You can say all you want about “haters” but immigration turned negative under Obama and we were unwelcoming to immigrants because America quit creating the jobs that poor people need and just produced jobs for rich people – the ones who contributed a billion dollars to Obama and Clinton and who don’t pay taxes.

    Here is my prediction, wall or not, immigration will spike upwards and more immigrants will flow into the US in the next four years than came in the last four years. And, employment of natives will blow way past Obama’s growth rate. The negative relationship between employment of natives and immigrants that conservative republicans believe exist just simply doesn’t exist.

    Reading the wailing and railing comments on this blog is like watching a living dead movie, something separated from the reality of real life.

  3. I think it is safe to assume that most Republicans in Congress are not going to oppose Trump and will do what they do best which is to toe the party line and march in lockstep. They have to be voted out of office, as many as possible and as soon as possible.

    The American people are another story. The Trump supporters (including the “deplorables”) are not the majority of Americans based on the election results. And honestly, I’m beginning to believe that Trump supporters don’t matter unless they grow their numbers, and that does not seem to be in the cards.

    The exact opposite is more likely as Trump’s reality show form of governance generates the kind of chaos, suffering, fear, and resistance that we have seen in the last couple of weeks. He can fill his inner circle with billionaires, white supremacists, hard line conservatives, and incompetent bimbos, and he can crank out executive orders until there’s a cool, sunny day in Hell. But there comes that day when those people who voted for him in the Rust Belt want their good paying jobs. And the Evangelicals want Roe v. Wade overturned. The immigrant haters want their border wall, massive deportations, and no refugees. The Obama haters ll want that cheap health insurance that is so much better than the ACA.

    These people want what they voted for. And it is difficult to imagine that Trump will deliver that robust economy where all of these people are walking in tall cotton, everyone has great health insurance, no one can have an abortion, no one can climb over the border wall, etc…Before too long, it will all appear to be some kind of joke, on them.

    I do not expect them to grow in numbers and their numbers right now can be defeated. I also don’t expect them to become more enlightened.

    And then there’s the other half of America. We can certainly be encouraged by the huge numbers of people who are taking part in the resistance, willing to protest all weekend at airports against Trump’s Muslim ban. This may be the “woke” generation that we’ve waited for, young people who are not so willing to sit quietly while 80 years of democratic achievement is under assault by those who have a very different vision of a “more perfect union.”

    I remember a time in the Jim Crow South when white people didn’t stand up for civil rights. If anything, most of them were opposed to equality. Now, there were a few who did stand up and they did so at great risk. But, make no mistake, their numbers were very small. During those times, I knew only one white person who stood up, the pastor at our parish. One Sunday he announced that the school would be integrated and no debate would be allowed.

    Now there’s a groundswell movement. The seeds sown by people like Monsignor Jordan have taken root. Let’s allow ourselves to rejoice in that and hope that it’s real and resilient. Because, God knows, this may be all that stands between us and irreversible calamity.

    • There is a groundswell. And there’s a lot of silver linings popping up. Trump’s keeping his promise to MAGA by inspiring a lot of sleeping Dems, liberals, and progressives to get up and do something.

      There were more people in the Women’s March than attended the inauguration. And that was started on Facebook by one retired grandma from Hawaii. 4 million people in the streets in the US, and millions more worldwide.

      There are reports of hundreds of new progressives candidates signing up to run for office. This is where the DNC has been failing for years, local elections.

      Thanks Bernie!

      And there are reports of the Koch Brother’s and their vast network of astroturf organizations getting nervous about President Bannon’s recklessness causing a huge progressive backlash.

      The ACLU usually takes in about 4 million a year in online donations. They took in 4 million from 350,000 donors last weekend alone.

      The Bull and the Ballerina 2018.

  4. bob this assumes the republicans brooks talks about are not evil devils. they made a bargain with the devil along time ago. ask kavenaugh or herr huppenthal.

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