When it comes to the state of our political parties, a new NBC News poll has more bits to chew on, and as usual a good bit of it can be summarized into “a good chunk of the Republican base is unhinged.” Most voters agree that “investigations into alleged wrongdoing” by part-time Mar-a-Lago resident Donald Trump should continue—but only 1 in 5 Republicans can agree to that.
This is either because 4 in 5 Republicans seriously believe that Dear Golfing Leader is being politically persecuted for being too glorious for his political rivals to tolerate, God help us, or because 4 in 5 Republicans believe that Captain Golfboy should be allowed to get away with federal crimes if he wants to—in which case God help us and then some.
NBC might have buried the lede, though. Another question asks Republicans whether they support Donald Trump more than they support the Republican Party, or support the party over Donald Trump, and again it shows that a good chunk of the Republican base isn’t in it for the Republicanism. They’re in it for the preening, racist fascism.
Just 50% of Republican voters say they are more loyal to the Republican Party than to Donald Trump himself, down from 58% a few months ago. And 41% now say they support Trump over the party, up from 34%.
In that little number, we see why House and Senate Republicans continue to defend Trump even in the comical case of “he was discovered to have stolen classified nuclear weapons documents after losing office, taking them to his spy-riddled private Florida club.” The Republican Party would be a rump party if it wasn’t for Trump. He was the one who collected the Dear Leader-driven fascists, the violent, the racist, the Americans willing to believe any hoax and invent a few of their own, and turn them into his own private voting army.
Forty-one percent of Republican voters don’t give a damn about fiscal austerity or tax policies or any of the rest of what the party’s top officials try to sell them. They’re in it for the shouting. They’re here for the fake promises to build invisible border walls and for the guy willing to do crimes to make their imagined enemies pay.
Eighty percent of Republicans agree that it’s outrageous to investigate Donald Trump for doing crimes, and of that number, half think Donald Trump being able to get away with things is more important than the party itself.
This is the schism that just cost Rep. Liz Cheney her political career. She was unwilling to abide an actual coup attempt by the Trumpist wing of the party—and the rest of the Republican Party’s leadership, cowards to a person, savaged her for it. Her voters savaged her for it. If 40% believe Trump is more important than the party itself, then that’s 40% of Republican voters who will absolutely support a coup over holding elections. If 80% of Republican voters don’t think Trump should even be investigated for criminal acts such as violent coup or what could very well turn into a case of for-profit espionage, then there’s your whole answer to the current moment:
Any Republican who doesn’t back crimes or coups immediately loses 80% of the base. Without the crimes and the coups, there … is no longer a party. It doesn’t exist.
If there is good news here, it is that Donald Trump has assembled the rubes of Republicanism, and what the rubes giveth the rubes can taketh away. If Fox News turns on Trump, it’s likely that a majority of his current support simply vanishes into thin air. These are people who are responding to the rhetoric on their television sets, and neither know nor give a damn about the actual events they are basing their current political personalities around.
Giving them a new personality would be as easy as replacing the Tucker Carlson show with the Liz Cheney show. Fox wouldn’t do it, of course, but giving a nonfascist Republican who is still willing to give the base the xenophobia they want while simultaneously bashing Trump on a nightly basis would cause a good chunk of them, over the course of a year or so, to dislike Trump, because disliking Trump is now the hip new position to take.
A much, much more plausible concern for the party is what might happen if Donald Trump died. The man is never more than one cheeseburger away from dropping dead on his own golf course, which would leave the fascist flock without a guiding figure. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is preparing for that day as if he knows something we don’t.
No, I mean he is really preparing for the day that Donald Trump drops dead and the party’s fascist wing needs to find someone who exactly fills his suit.
Yikes and a half. Ron is already coming perilously close to doing the full Trump centaur stance. If he disappears for a few weeks and comes back with gold-dyed hair and skin the color of a highway detour sign, Trump had better have someone else start turning the ignition key on his golf carts for a while.
That’s the thing about nearly half the Republican Party wanting a Trump-like figure more than they want actual Republicanism: It doesn’t necessarily have to be Trump. Anyone will do, so long as they parrot Trump’s cruelty, penchant for crimes, utter disregard for laws and norms he doesn’t like, willingness to lie about anything for any reason, willingness to lie in order to invent new enemies for his base to become consumed with, and the rest. And, as it turns out, there are hundreds if not thousands of Republican politicians who can parrot all of that the moment they know there’s a base for it.
The bragging golf cheat is not a political genius. He simply stumbled into a moment where being an uncontrollable malignant narcissist, obsessed with self-gain and contemptuous of the notion that anyone but him even has the right to exist, much less prosper, was exactly the platform the Republican Party’s carefully honed Fox News-watching voting base was waiting for.
“Screw everyone except me” is practically the party motto now. Put that on a cheap red hat and you’d sell 100,000,000 of them. “Donald Trump is allowed to get away with any crimes he wants” is probably too long to put on a hat, but I imagine we’ll be seeing them at Republican rallies anytime now.
Trump and his followers proved on Jan. 6 how dangerously close they came to overturning our democracy. Help cancel Republican voter suppression with the power of your pen by clicking here and signing up to volunteer with Vote Forward, writing personalized letters to targeted voters urging them to exercise their right to vote this year.
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