When we talk about people or a party being on the wrong side of history, it usually requires some hindsight, a position of informed advantage to see clearly missteps that were less clear at the time of events.
Not so now, with today’s modern Republican Party and its utter cowardice and complacency.
We will not need half a century or even a decade to know that the GOP, in accepting, enabling and in many cases defending President Donald Trump’s gleeful torching of long-cherished American ideals, norms and standards of decency, is on the wrong side of history.
And for that, the party will pay dearly.
The Faustian bargain made by Republican lawmakers and many Trump voters was never sustainable, nor was it defensible. Early on in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Republicans were confronted almost daily with a clear choice: Accept Trump’s overt appeals to the bigotry and racism festering in the bowels of the nation, or reject it wholly.
Far too many chose the former.
It was worth it for a good economy, many said earnestly. It was worth it for more jobs, less regulation, conservative judges, a border wall. Whatever the particular chits, the Republican leaders and voters who made these cosmic compacts were only thinking about cashing out, not the consequences of selling out.
But that’s exactly what they did, every one. And the great compartmentalization of Trump is this century’s biggest lie, a lie perpetuated over and over again by Trump apologists and supporters alike.
It was the absurd idea that evangelical Christians could separate Trump’s immorality from, say, his defense of Israel. It was a belief that fiscal conservatives could separate his economic agenda from his social agenda.
It was the comical notion that Republican lawmakers could somehow quarantine the party from Trump’s diseased ambitions in exchange for legislation, without realizing his particular virus wasn’t a direct contact disease, but an airborne one.
And finally, the great compartmentalization of Trump was the defiant insistence that these were the things that mattered, and anyone who cared about other things, like honor and decency, were elitists, establishment and cucks.
Of course, the people who made these bargains, who tricked themselves into thinking about Trump like a buffet where they could take what they want and leave what they didn’t, arbitrarily decided to imbue one group of things — policies, in most cases — with more significance than another group of things, like innate character.
But the two categories only ever existed as separate in their own imaginations. There were no compartments, only the totality of Trump and his designs on the nation.
That’s why now, as only a few Republican lawmakers have poked their heads out to disavow Trump’s despicable, indefensible and un-American tirade against four elected, American women of color, it is particularly dumbfounding and disingenuous to suggest we can still compartmentalize this president.
And yet, Sen. Joni Ernst admitted his tweets were racist, but asked, “Let’s focus on policies and we can debate those policies because I personally think the GOP has a stronger platform to talk about.
That’s what we should be focusing on.” Sen. Rob Portman blithely reminded a CNN host who asked him why Trump’s words were wrong that he’d originally been booked to discuss immigration.
Sen. Pat Toomey condemned the comments about the Democratic congresswomen, but offered, “We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”
Here’s the problem: Trump’s corrosive agenda to divide America is the policy.
Bigotry and otherism are both the ideas and the merits for Trump. The racist rhetoric is the agenda. Pretending they are separate or disconnected was, is and always will be a cop-out and a lie.
So, Republicans, be advised: No one will look back and think, sure, Trump was a bigot but the party nobly accepted that in order to pass tax legislation. History — very near history — will dissolve the lie and the imaginary compartments and reveal only one thing: Republicans stood for Trump.
They stood for all of him.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.