It makes no sense, but it’s a fact. Donald Trump – a wacko, crook, and proven agent of chaos – is set to become the Republican Party’s candidate for leader of the free world.
The former and aspiring president’s popularity among Republicans has only grown in the wake of his mounting indictments. The morning of his indictment in Georgia on Monday, Trump was polling 52.7% in primary polls, as opposed to the next candidate’s 14%, and a slew of also-rans, all under 8%.
As of this writing, there is no sign that the latest charges will change any of this. People are ready, indeed eager, to install in the White House a man whose attempt to overturn a presidential election’s result seemed evident to millions of TV viewers as it is now to a Georgia grand jury.
The Republican Party needs to save the US and democracy from Trump's return
Surely, Trump’s political survival speaks volumes about America’s broader social crisis, but before that it calls to task the people these polls survey and the political home they share: the Republican Party that was Abraham Lincoln’s accelerator of racial justice, Dwight Eisenhower’s edifice of national stability, and Ronald Regan’s engine of economic revival and international sway.
Now this party, if it’s up to its primary voters, will install in the Oval Office a man whose very reappearance at the White House’s threshold will underscore their party’s vertigo, their country’s decline, and Western democracy’s potential demise.
DOUBTS OVER Trump’s presidential suitability were originally about a flamboyant businessman’s career change. Age 70 when he won the Republican nomination, Trump’s baggage raised questions about his political experience, diplomatic expertise, and intellectual gravitas.
This was on the professional side. On the moral side, there were esthetical problems – his profane language and impulsive temper – as well as behavioral scandals, like his flings with prostitutes.
Hovering above all this was a veneer of frivolity, arrogance, an utter disrespect for other people’s feelings and values, and a perversion of the patriotic ideal.
A case in point was Trump’s quip about the late John McCain. “I like people who weren’t captured,” said the draft dodger in reference to the combat pilot who survived Vietnamese captivity, into which he fell severely wounded after a missile hit his plane.
In Israel, such a statement can kill a political career. Too many people here know what war is, what enduring its horrors involves, and what evading its call says about the evader. There was a time when saluting patriots was what America’s Republicans were all about. That time ended when the Republican Party bargained its soul to Trump.
Such flaws in Trump’s presidential eligibility emerged already before his presidency. Since then, his leadership was tested empirically, in two installments: first, in his delivery as president, and then, in his response to his defeat.
This week’s indictment is about that second test, namely Trump’s mental inability to accept defeat, and his consequent scorn for America’s social cohesion, and willingness to lie, conspire, and debilitate the American republic in order to serve himself.
Republicans dismiss the legal allegations Trump faces as conspiracies. They remain unperturbed even in the face of ultra-conservative Mike Pence’s testimony from the thick of Trump’s operation that his boss was “reckless,” that the president prodded him “to overturn the election” and while at it “endangered everyone at the Capitol,” and his conclusion that “history will hold him [Trump] accountable.”
Debating blind believers is difficult, especially when they choose to believe the unbelievable. The question to them, therefore, is not about Trump’s legal situation but about his political performance.
AS PRESIDENT, Trump lost senior officials day in and day out, creating endemic instability. Ranging from secretary of state Rex Tillerson and chief strategist Steve Bannon to secretary of defense James Mattis and national security adviser Herbert McMaster, his chaotic management’s victims add up to a 92% turnover in 65 senior positions, according to a Brookings Institute survey.
Trump couldn’t stand the company of serious, conscientious professionals like Tillerson and Mattis who asked too many questions and knew too much. He wanted cheerleaders who would applaud him even when he recklessly met North Korea’s dictator with no plan or aim, foolishly giving that bully undeserved legitimacy in return for nothing.
Meanwhile, Trump treated the world to a daily diet of tweets making a mockery of the very art of government, once reprimanding the Federal Reserve chairman for his “horrendous lack of vision,” another day charging Google with “manipulating from 2.6 to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton,” another time offering to buy Greenland (making Denmark’s prime minister ask, “Is this some sort of joke?”) and in between darting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meryl Streep, the mayor of London, the prime minister of Australia, Trump’s own secretary of state, and, for good measure, the National Football League.
The man, in short, was as socially mindless as he was politically reckless, diplomatically clueless, strategically aimless, and morally godless.
It should all make yesteryear’s Republican icons, statesmen like Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan, spin in their graves, but the current Republican Party’s 26 governors, 49 senators, and 222 congressional lawmakers have yet to get together and part ways with their leader.
It would all have been fine had this been merely about their party. But this is not about the Republicans alone. It’s about the American nation and the entire free world, which the Republican Party seems ready to hurl to the gates of hell.
There is only one way to change course: secession; launch a new Republican Party; a party that will deploy people like Tillerson, Mattis, and former national security adviser John Bolton, all of whom witnessed firsthand the Trump presidency’s horrors, alongside the select Republican governors and lawmakers willing to cry out loud what should also be the new party’s slogan: Make America Sane Again.
The writer, a Hartman Institute fellow, is the author of the bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s political leadership.