This last week, there are two connected bits of news regarding the national Republican Party that I find really interesting. The first is that Paul Ryan has endorsed Donald Trump. The second is Trump’s stunning comments about US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel. I know that humans are tribal, but I just don’t see how anyone who is paying even a little attention can stay Republican.
Let’s start with Ryan. Christian Schneider at USA Today called the endorsement a jarring sellout. He seems particularly upset that Ryan laid out certain goals that Trump needed to make progress on in order to get Ryan’s endorsement. Christian asked, “In the 10 days before the endorsement, Trump floated discredited conspiracy theories about former Clinton adviser Vince Foster’s death and attacked the ethnicity of a judge overseeing the Trump University case. Are these what pushed Ryan toward capitulation?”
I don’t know why Schneider is surprised. Remember back when Paul Ryan was deciding whether he would be the Speaker of the House? He made certain demands of the Republican caucus. In particular, he wanted the assurance of its members that they wouldn’t undercut him the way that they had John Boehner. But the caucus members were unwilling to provide this assurance. Ryan took the job anyway.
Ryan’s really the perfect Republican. He’s more than willing to have principles. But if those principles cost him even the smallest amount, they are gone. Power is what matters to Paul Ryan. And there is no upside to standing athwart Trump, yelling, “Stop!” Many commentators have claimed that Ryan will regret his endorsement in six months. But that’s nonsense. The only price that Ryan could pay would be for not supporting Trump. So all Ryan’s talk of “goals” was just his usual political theater — a show for the Villagers who are convinced that he is “thoughtful.”
And then there’s Donald Trump. He thinks that Judge Curiel can’t be fair to him because of the judge’s Mexican ancestry. And when given the chance to walk the statement back, Trump went on to claim that a Muslim judge would be unfair to him as well. The truth is that Trump is just the poster boy of privilege, and any time he doesn’t get what he wants, it means that someone is being unfair to him. For most candidates this would be seen as a major gaff. But there is so much exhaustion with Trump that it’s considered about what you would expect.
But people are wrong to mistake this exhaustion for normalization. It’s clear to me that Donald Trump is just the Carl Paladino of presidential politics. You may remember that Paladino ran for governor of New York in 2010 and only managed to get one-third of the vote. In his case, no one was surprised by anything he did. But it didn’t make those things any more acceptable to the voters.
So the Republican Party elites can pretend that everything is okay — just as a dysfunctional family pretends that dad isn’t a drunk. USA Today can report, Paul Ryan Hopes Trump Endorsement a Turning Point in Race. But barring an economic collapse, Trump is going to go down in flames in the general election.