Because Donald Trump is all of the things all of the time.
There’s an expectation — often, a demand — that movement conservatives be all in or all out on the Donald Trump presidency. Lock-stepping partisans of both varieties offer this false choice. The election phase of the debate is over. Traditionally, presidents offer a menu of policies that more or less comport with the worldview of their party. This is different. So while I don’t contend to speak for all conservatives, I do imagine many are horrified/excited/sad/happy/content/embarrassed by what’s going on — often on the same day.
For me, it’s repulsive to hear Trump and friends use authoritarian-tinged rhetoric when talking about the press. Telling the media to “keep its mouth shut,” even if journalists are antagonistic, isn’t something a person in a position of power should be saying. Although the administration hasn’t yet inhibited the media in any way — by, say, illegally spying on journalists — this kind of statement is distressing because it exposes an un-American view of free expression.
Then again, Trump is also almost certain to pick an originalist Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, who, if confirmed, will defuse Democrats’ authoritarian efforts to empower the state to ban political speech outright by overturning Citizens United. Many of us assumed the court would be lost and state power unchecked. If Trump keeps his promises — a big if — conservatives could have a generational victory.
So why should we expect Republicans to act like only one of the above is happening?
Trump issued a statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning that the Nazis’ final solution was specifically aimed at exterminating the Jews of Europe. This is offensive, amateurish, and historically illiterate — and get used to it. Most Jewish organizations, as they should, condemned the omission.
Then again, it’s also highly unlikely that the Trump administration would send a billion dollars in cash in an attempt to placate an anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying, nuclear-weapon-seeking, terrorist-backing regime that openly threatens the lives of millions of Jews in the Middle East. Not in 1939. But right now. That has been happening, as well.
From my perspective, Trump is neither presidential, competent, nor ideologically (or otherwise) coherent most of the time. The alternative doesn’t sound that great, either.
I doubt I’m alone on this. In the best-case scenario, congressional Republicans do what ruling parties rarely do, which is hold their president in check. One day Trump’s negatives might make him completely unpalatable for most conservatives. Today, what reason do they give to make common cause with morally preening liberals who overreact to every executive order and utterance? In this environment, it’s perfectly acceptable, even preferable, to take politics issue by issue.
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