Trump is letting conservatives play out 50 years of sick fantasies
We’re nearing the point of no return.
The firing of James Comey as an obvious means of obstructing a Russia investigation that had been picking up steam (and hoping to pick up more prosecutors) was met with slightly peaked “concerns about the timing” from a few Republicans. But most tellingly, Mitch McConnell’s refusal to even consider an independent investigation suggests that any hope that our institutions might contain Trump’s excesses is nearing total evaporation, as Brian Beutler notes.
“Absent consequences, Trump will rightly feel liberated to appoint whomever he wants to run the IRS when the current commissioner’s term expires later this year,” he wrote. “More alarmingly, he will know that he can get away with ordering a crackdown on voting rights or investigations of his political enemies.”
It should now be obvious that Republicans are not reluctant passengers in Trump’s sidecar. They’re the engine that’s keeping the wheels spinning.
The pretense of voter fraud, the invention of scandals for all Democrats and the absolution of crimes for conservatives are the running themes of the American right for the last half century.
And so is vengeance, which is a hell of a drug.
Before the election, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin noted that “Trump’s emphasis on violence and retaliation, especially outside the confines of the law, is unique among modern nominees.”
Sarlin notes that Trump claimed that Bible verse that’s influenced him most is “an eye for an eye,” the call for vengeance from the Old Testament. It reappears in the Old Testament’s sequel when Jesus says, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
But conservatives don’t turn the other cheek, unless it’s to get a better view through the scope.
This isn’t just Trump’s revenge fantasy.
It’s the revenge of Jeff Sessions, who was denied a federal judgeship when Democrats backed by Coretta Scott King called out his “shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
It’s the revenge of Steve Bannon, who says he’s mad at Wall Street for bilking his dad, though his “punishment” seems to involve granting bankers’ wettest dreams and punishing immigrants and refugees instead.
It’s the revenge of Paul Ryan (and his billionaire donors who may have won Pennsylvania for Trump), who had to watch all his hard work exploding the deficit under George W. Bush sidetracked by tax increases on the rich and health reform that insured 20 million while cutting the deficit.
For the Tea Party base, Trump is revenge for eight years of losing and powerlessness and the feeling of being “a stranger” in their own country.
Most of all, Trump is the revenge of a hard right that’s had to watch the Supreme Court usher in desegregation, women’s rights and marriage equality, often with votes from Justices appointed by Republicans.
Trump does have the conviction-less mindset of a shark in constant need of blood to feed his ego, even as he’s as proving to be incompetent at running a government as he was in managing a casino. But despite his incompetence and lack of object permanence, he’s never lost sight of how badly the GOP needs revenge — especially revenge in the form of court appointments that will undo a century of progress and reverse decisions that eroded the hegemony of patriarchal white males.
This awareness makes Mitch McConnell his most crucial ally.
McConnell’s strategy of uniting the conservative base around a Supreme Court opening prevented his party’s fracture and Trump’s willingness to let conservatives give him lists of judges he could then present as his own makes any retreat from absolute abeyance to Trump not just unlikely but almost impossible to imagine.
McConnell saved his party. He also saved Trump from his Russia connections during the election. And by doing so, he proved that his strategy of eight years of obstruction was genius.
If McConnell is fueled by vengeance, it’s hard to see what for. If Trump lacks convictions, McConnell seem to lack the belief that convictions even exist.
McConnell biographer Alec MacGillis calls the Majority Leader The Cynic because the Kentucky Republican began his career as “pro-abortion rights, pro-union, in support of the civil rights movement” and somehow evolved into the lizard-tongued opposite of all that.
McConnell is who many imagine Trump to be — clear-eyed, ruthless and pragmatic. He feeds on others’ need for vengeance without being blinded by his own in the endless pursuit of power.
Now that he has it, he’s not going to let high crimes, misdemeanors or Donald Trump get in the way of that.