The Republican Party is Dr. Frankenstein, and Donald Trump is its monster. Yes, there were some exceptions, but the fact remains that — in particular by opposing in a knee-jerk fashion everything Barack Obama proposed and by nurturing white grievance and white identity politics — the GOP created Trump, they chose him as their nominee, they rallied around him, and they made him their champion. Frankenstein’s monster, however, could only terrorize one village at a time. Trumpenstein threatens us all.
They know what they’ve done. Bob Corker made that perfectly clear. I’ve been following politics for a long time, and I’ve never seen any national political figure talk openly and publicly about a president the way Corker did, let alone someone from the president’s own party. I know that we’ve all gotten sort of used to people talking about Trump this way, but it is, truly, unprecedented. It’s the equivalent of calling 911 for our country.
Then Trump this week threatened to tear up the Constitution by junking the First Amendment, the one that guarantees freedom of the press and without which the government could control what gets published. What could prompt him to threaten the core of our democratic freedoms in this way? Because NBC reported a story — backed by multiple sources — that made him look both crazy and stupid. This story detailed a meeting with numerous high-ranking national security officials in which Trump made statements that provoked his own Secretary of State to characterize him as a “moron.”
In Vanity Fair, we read of “a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers” who “describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.” These prominent Republicans described Trump with words like: “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.” This is, I’ll say again, unprecedented.
It’s no coincidence that Trump announced measures to sabotage the Affordable Care Act this week. When things start falling apart, his instinct is to rally his base. And the one thing his base hates above all is anything with the name “Obama” attached to it. It doesn’t matter to him that most of the rest of the country wants to see Obamacare improved, not destroyed. He just needed to change the subject.
Look, I’m very glad Bob Corker spoke out. I give him a lot more credit than I do people like Tillerson, who say things behind closed doors, or the people who spoke to Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman, but without putting their names behind their comments. What’s more important than words, however, are actions. Bob Corker voted for two out of the three major bills that would have repealed Obamacare in July, and expressed support for the awful Graham-Cassidy bill that thankfully failed in September. So Corker has been better than some Republicans in terms of standing up to Trump, but only barely so.
What we need now is a clear, bold statement from enough Republicans to matter. Three Senators would do it, but more would be better. That statement needs to be uncompromising in acknowledging what Donald Trump is, and accepting the responsibility the Republican Party bears for his rise to power. It might have to come from those who won’t, in all likelihood, be running again for the Senate. For various reasons, Corker, and John McCain look like they’ll both fall into that category. Lisa Murkowski, by famously winning as a write-in candidate in 2010, has already shown she can win without an R next to her name. Susan Collins, along with McCain and Murkowski joined together to drive a stake through the heart of the zombie Trumpcare bill earlier this year. Maybe others would join in as well.
Such a group of Republicans must commit to derailing the Trump agenda, lock, stock and barrel, and openly declare that they are doing so with the express purpose of derailing the Trump presidency. They must recognize that if the Trump presidency succeeds, the GOP will become indistinguishable from Trumpism for a generation or more. That can only be a recipe for long-term failure, both for the country and the party they claim to love.
To be sure, there are other constitutionally sound measures Republicans could take to bring the Trump presidency to an end. If Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller finds sufficient evidence, perhaps even enough Republicans would vote to impeach and convict. The 25th Amendment allows for the removal of the president if the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet find him unable to carry out his duties. But what I'm talking about here is something different, because it would be an explicit rejection of what Trumpism stands for, beyond the manifest unfitness of the man himself to serve.
These erstwhile saviors of their own party must recognize that making such a commitment and carrying it out is worth losing the opportunity to enact Republican priorities—highly unpopular, by the way—such as the rich man’s tax cut, or gutting the environment, or making contraception unaffordable for many women, to name a few. Hard as it may be from a policy perspective, they must, to paraphrase the old adage from Vietnam, destroy this village in order to save it.
This should have happened a long time ago. It should have happened before the election, frankly. There were some true never Trumpers, conservatives who not only spoke against the monster but openly endorsed and worked for Hillary Clinton. But not enough to stop him. Still, action now would be better late than never. Even if enough Republican elected officials heed this call to actually succeed in neutering the Trump presidency, that would only partially absolve them from the stain of having enabled it in the first place. The fact that it has come to this demonstrates how morally and ideologically bankrupt the Republican Party has become.
Steve Bannon is right about one thing. It’s time for some creative destruction in the Republican Party. The only question is: are there enough Republicans willing to take down their party’s leader in order to rescue it.