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.