Trump Came for Their Party but Took Over Their Souls

I thought I was beyond shockable, but this week has been profoundly shocking for me. I spent the bulk of my adult life on the right-wing side of things, generally rooting for the Republican Party, because I thought that party best served America. People like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump chased me out of the Republican orbit (gradually and then all at once), but I have still held out the hope that my many friends on the right are kind of like an occupied country. They have to mouth the Trumpian prejudices to survive in this era, but somewhere deep inside, the party of Reagan still lives in their souls.

After this week, and the defeat of the immigration-Ukraine-Israel package, it’s hard to believe that anymore. Even if some parts of the bill survive, the party of Eisenhower, Reagan and McCain is just stone cold gone — and not only among House Republicans, but apparently among their Senate colleagues too.

My progressive readers are now thinking: Have you not been paying attention? Donald Trump has owned this party for years. If he told them to kill the immigration compromise because he needed a campaign issue, they were going to kill that proposal.

To which I respond: I don’t think you quite understand what just happened. This wasn’t just about Republicans cynically bending their knee to Trump. Rather, I’m convinced that Trumpism now pervades the deepest recesses of their minds and governs their unconscious assumptions. Their fundamental mental instincts are no longer conservative, but Trumpian.

Here are some of the convictions that Republicans had to assent to in order to do what they did this week:

Democracy is for suckers. In a democratic society, opposing parties negotiate and try to strike a compromise that’s, on balance, better than the status quo. This week’s immigration-Ukraine-Israel package is one of the most one-sided compromises I’ve ever seen. Republicans got most of their long-term priorities, while Democrats got almost none of theirs. “By any honest reckoning, this is the most restrictive migrant legislation in decades,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted. “This is almost entirely a border security bill, and its provisions include longtime G.O.P. priorities that the party’s restrictionists could never have passed only a few months ago.”

And yet Republican after Republican came out against the package, arguing it doesn’t have absolutely everything they want. They have adopted the Trumpian logic that under him, they will never have to compromise. The dictator will issue commands, and everything Republicans want will just happen. Meanwhile, Republican James Lankford, who conducted a lavishly successful negotiation, is being savaged on the right side of the internet for being a weak-willed compromiser.

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