The Slatest

Rats Are Jumping off Donald Trump’s Ship, but Is It Actually Sinking?

Two officers in helmets and fluorescent jackets are seen walking near a white column through a window that has been badly cracked by what appear to be multiple impacts.
U.S. Capitol Police near a damaged entrance to the Capitol on Thursday. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s presidency has, on many occasions, withstood the kind of pressure that would have made other politicians resign. From the backlash to firing FBI Director James Comey to the backlash to child separation to the backlash to blackmailing Ukraine, he’s handled crises that initially unnerved his Republican allies by waiting things out and burying the news cycle in disinformation.

The physical violence and symbolic horror of Wednesday’s mob attack on Congress, coupled with the reality that Trump has only 13 days left in his term, has put him in what looks like a weaker situation than ever. A number of midlevel administration figures (the deputy national security adviser, a deputy press secretary, the White House social secretary, and the first lady’s chief of staff) and one Cabinet secretary (Elaine Chao, who led the Department of Transportation) have resigned. Several Republican senators who planned to show support for Trump by objecting to the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral votes changed their minds about doing so while being forced to hide from their own party’s voters. Former Attorney General William Barr, who was until recently willing to lie and abuse his own office on Trump’s behalf, called his erstwhile boss’s behavior “inexcusable.” Up-and-coming GOP blowhards like Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw are admitting things have gone too far (while, of course, ignoring their own key roles in taking things too far).

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Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, typically very cautious about being seen as too aggressively partisan, have both said that Vice President Mike Pence should take the unprecedented step of invoking the 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his power. Pence himself has not commented publicly on the possibility, but Wednesday’s violence was driven in part by Trump’s outrage that Pence had refused to declare himself capable of rejecting the Electoral College results.

What do the Republican voters who’ve supported Trump throughout his term think? A quick poll done by Morning Consult found that 41 percent of Republicans blame Trump for the week’s violence. Pundit Hugh Hewitt, America’s foremost example of the kind of fiscal-restraint and family-values conservative who completely abandoned his ostensible principles to become a fanatical Trump supporter, wrote in the Washington Post Thursday that the president showed “incomprehensible indifference to the mayhem of the day” and “ought to be filled with remorse.” Moral concerns aside, Trump’s efforts to stay in office have been rejected by the courts and Congress—he’s a lame duck, and one who wasn’t able to rally enough voters to keep two Republican Senate candidates from losing their races in Georgia on Tuesday. Morning Consult found that only half of Republican voters say their party is “headed in the right direction,” down from 70 percent last August. Being a loser might not be good for a brand premised on personal machismo.

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That said, the idea that Trump has finally gone too far for even his party goes back to at least the Access Hollywood tape, when the presidential nominee’s recorded boasts about sexual assault led to speculation about whether the pious Pence might remove himself from the ticket. But each time, shocked Republicans have let their shock wear off, usually within 12 to 36 hours, as the party reequilibrates itself around the new, even worse normal. Sometimes there are resignations during the shock period; other times everyone just stays put. But in the end, everyone—Republican or not—sees the boundary of the obviously unacceptable move another quarter-mile further down the road to the apocalypse. Thursday afternoon, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the modal whichever-way-the-wind-blows Republican hack, said that he would not support invoking the 25th Amendment unless “something else happens.” Buddy, something else usually does!

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