Here comes the GOP blood bath

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - BY ERICK ERICK­SON Erick Erick­son is ed­i­tor of the Resur­gent.

Repub­li­cans like to point out how dis­as­trous Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ten­ure was for the Demo­cratic Party. Dur­ing his pres­i­dency, Democrats reached new lows in state leg­isla­tive, gu­ber­na­to­rial and con­gres­sional seats. More than 1,000 state and fed­eral seats moved to the GOP. And though many pre­fer to blame James B. Comey or Rus­sia, there can be no ques­tion that Demo­cratic losses in 2016 were com­pounded by an in­ept Clin­ton cam­paign team that ig­nored the plight of work­ing-class Amer­i­cans in the Rust Belt, fo­cus­ing in­stead on peo­ple who looked and thought just like they did.

Don­ald Trump was able to con­nect with vot­ers with whom he had noth­ing in com­mon largely be­cause the Clin­ton cam­paign left a vac­uum on the other side of the aisle, which Trump gladly filled. None­the­less, through­out 2016 I main­tained my op­po­si­tion to Trump for three rea­sons, two of which are in­creas­ingly, wor­ry­ingly rel­e­vant.

First, I did not think Trump could beat Hil­lary Clin­ton. When it came to the pop­u­lar vote, of course, he did not, but thanks to roughly 70,000 peo­ple in Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia, he won the pres­i­dency.

Sec­ond, I thought that Trump, even if he won, would be deeply de­struc­tive to the na­tional fab­ric and to the con­ser­va­tive ideas I sup­port.

Third, I strongly be­lieved that Trump lacks moral char­ac­ter and that he sets a bad ex­am­ple both for my chil­dren and for peo­ple of faith. I re­peat­edly said through­out the cam­paign that if God wanted Trump in the White House, he would not need Chris­tians to dirty them­selves to make it hap­pen.

Un­for­tu­nately, while I was wrong about my first con­cern, I am in­creas­ingly wor­ried about the lat­ter two. Trump’s evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian sup­port­ers of­ten told me that whether we liked Trump or not, we needed him to save the Supreme Court. My re­sponse re­mains that four years of Clin­ton ap­point­ing judges, while aw­ful, would be noth­ing com­pared with a gen­er­a­tional wipe­out of the GOP. Water­gate may have turned Charles Col­son from hatchet man to pas­tor, but the de­fense of Pres­i­dent Trump is turn­ing a lot of pas­tors into hatchet men. Few peo­ple come away from Trump’s or­bit with­out com­pro­mis­ing their char­ac­ters.

A Repub­li­can reck­on­ing is on the hori­zon. Vot­ers are in­creas­ingly dis­sat­is­fied with a Repub­li­can Party un­able to gov­ern. And con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans in­creas­ingly find them­selves in an im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion: If they sup­port the pres­i­dent, many Amer­i­cans will be­lieve they are ne­glect­ing their duty to hold him ac­count­able. But if they do their duty, Trump’s core sup­port­ers will at­tack them as be­tray­ers — and then run pri­mary can­di­dates against them.

Through it all, voter dis­sat­is­fac­tion has been grow­ing. Trump’s core might stand with him, as he claimed, even if he killed some­one in the mid­dle of the street. But would those 70,000 vot­ers who put him in the White House? As the pres­i­dent acts more ir­ra­tionally and his Twit­ter rant­ings be­come more un­hinged, will he draw more peo­ple to him­self and his party than he will re­pel? I sus­pect not.

The pres­i­dent ex­udes in­com­pe­tence and in­sta­bil­ity. Di­vulging clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to the Rus­sians through brag­ging; un­der­min­ing his staff’s de­fense of his con­duct through inane tweets; even re­port­edly ask­ing the FBI di­rec­tor to sus­pend an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a former ad­viser — all these strike me not so much as ma­li­cious but as the ig­no­rant ac­tions of an over­whelmed man. Repub­li­cans ex­cuse this be­hav­ior as Trump be­ing Trump, but that will only em­bolden vot­ers who seek greater ac­count­abil­ity to choose fur­ther change over sta­bil­ity. The sad re­al­ity is that the great­est de­fense of the pres­i­dent avail­able at this point is one his team could never give on the record: He is an id­iot who does not know any bet­ter.

It is be­com­ing ever clearer that Trump has the po­ten­tial to cause more dam­age to the Repub­li­can Party than Obama did the Democrats. While there is no doubt the Democrats saw se­ri­ous elec­toral set­backs un­der Obama, there re­mains a key dif­fer­ence here: Obama is deeply re­spected and liked by a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers. Trump is in­creas­ingly dis­liked, and the Repub­li­cans who en­able him are in­creas­ingly dis­trusted.

With a horde of vo­cal Trump sup­port­ers cheer­ing on ev­ery inane state­ment, delu­sion, lie and bad act, the ma­jor­ity of the Amer­i­can peo­ple can be for­given for think­ing the GOP as a whole has lost its mind. The Repub­li­cans may soon lose a gen­er­a­tion of vot­ers through a com­bi­na­tion of the sheer in­com­pe­tence of Trump and a party rank and file with no abil­ity to con­trol its leader.

Trump still thinks he stands in con­trast to Clin­ton, when in re­al­ity, for vot­ers watch­ing the chaos un­fold, he stands in con­trast both to a more level-headed Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and an un­known generic Demo­crat — nei­ther of whom con­stantly re­minds peo­ple of their in­com­pe­tence. Un­less Repub­li­can lead­ers stage an in­ter­ven­tion, I ex­pect them to ex­pe­ri­ence a de­served elec­toral blood bath in Novem­ber 2018.

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