Brow Beat

Trevor Noah Looks at the Republican Party’s Civil War

On Wednesday night, The Daily Show took a look at the Republican civil war, as Trevor Noah walked the audience through Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake’s recent public breaks with President Trump. Noah pulls some great clips from Flake’s speech, calling it “a Senatorial slam,” and finds a bright side to Corker and Flake’s decision not to seek reelection: To Noah, they’re not cowards refusing to stay and fight so much as they’re the guy who’s given two weeks’ notice at Jamba Juice. Now they can spit in the blender, ’cause what’s Trump gonna do, fire them? It’s a nice thought—and Noah gets great mileage out of the fact that neither side wants Ted Cruz—but this is a bit of a stretch:

They’ve shown that there are Republicans who are starting to see the realities of the Donald Trump presidency. Because even though they may agree with Trump on his legislative agenda, they are now publicly acknowledging the danger of everything else that this man stands for, which includes pathological lying, discarding diplomacy, encouraging white supremacy and undermining the rule of law and the institutions of democracy.

There miiiiiiight not be as much space between Trump’s legislative agenda and “encouraging white supremacy” as Noah seems to think, and the segment’s later metaphor—Corker and Flake are like low level drug dealers flipping on the kingpin—gives them much more credit than they deserve. Correspondent Michael Kosta’s PSA for Republicans who are ready to stop, in his words, “dealing Trump,” only works if you forget these guys have been gleefully destroying the country for decades. Still, points for fully executing the joke: they used a real phone number for the helpline. Dial it, and you’ll get a machine that says:

Hi, you’ve reached the Daily Show’s Anonymous Help Line, I’m Michael Kosta. Congratulations on your first step to a Trump-free life. Please leave your name, phone number, and the date you lost your dignity after the beep. Thanks for your story.

But the thing about drug dealers who flip is they’re supposed to stop dealing drugs, and as Katy Waldman noted on Slate, these guys aren’t doing much besides talk. Look, there are clear strategic reasons to encourage Republicans to defect—maybe instead of getting murdered by North Korea, we’ll just get robbed by the Koch brothers!—and if pretending Flake and Corker are heroes on The Daily Show is what it takes to save our skins, so be it. But we need a better definition of “defect” than “Say something mean about Donald Trump,” because the senators’ claims of a moral awakening are more than little undercut by the fact that, only a few hours after Flake’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment, both men voted to bring back mandatory arbitration clauses, one the scuzziest scams banks have ever invented. Whatever they say on Twitter or the Senate floor, these men don’t want to stop Trump from gutting the country. They just want him to learn some manners so he can confidently reach for the proper knife.