For the Furrowed Brow Society, things are finally looking up.
Small in number and feeble in influence, so-called “Never Trumper” Republicans have spent three years now peeking out from behind the congressional drapes to express dismay over President Trump’s antics.
Your John Kasiches, your Mitt Romneys, your Bens Sasse: They are among a handful of national Republican figures who all reliably emerge to criticize Trump on the occasion of his latest embarrassment. After every new indignity, the informal society assembles like an ineffectual version of the Avengers. Picture Captain America and Iron Man just sort of grunting ruefully and shaking their heads while they watch Fox News.
Has this resulted in any noticeable change in the president’s policy or demeanor? Of course not. Will the Republican Party finally come to its senses and turn to this crew to lead it into the future? Also no.
. . . But!
The air of desperation surrounding the president these days has to be heartening. Even some Frequent Trumpers are starting to wonder whether it might be time to get off the train. Suddenly, the Never Trumpers are so ascendant that Trump is lashing out at them, pleading with his administration officials to stop giving them jobs (this would seem to be within his control, but whatever).
And so we’ve reached a remarkable moment in the discourse: Some of these people seem positively delighted to be called — this is almost unbelievable, but I promise it’s true — “human scum.”
“The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, amid a fairly standard-issue tirade and blizzard of bonkers retweets. “Watch out for them, they are human scum!”
Hey, at least he called them “human,” which is more grace than he usually affords immigrants. But even in today’s uniquely debased political culture, the phrase “human scum” would seem to rise below our very low bar. And yet . . .
“Apparently, I’m human scum,” the conservative cybersecurity expert and former homeland security official Paul Rosenzweig wrote in The Atlantic, in a column headlined “I’m Proud to Be Called Human Scum.”
If you’re keeping score at home, the Republican Party is now overwhelmingly composed of people gleefully calling themselves “deplorable,” and a separate, opposed group proudly self-identifying as “human scum.”
Extremely normal, healthy stuff.
So I reached out to one of the few Republicans I could think of who does not seem to be in a hurry to brand himself as some sort of nightmare person — who seems to genuinely want to rise above all this: America’s Most Popular Governor™ Charlie Baker. Baker doesn’t spend a lot of time firing back at the president’s daily dumpster fire, which is probably wise.
“Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito did not support President Trump because he doesn’t have the right temperament for the office,” Baker’s press secretary, Sarah Finlaw, said in an e-mail, “and the administration doesn’t respond to sophomoric name-calling and will stay focused on working for the residents of Massachusetts. Washington, DC would be well served to follow suit.”
So if he wasn’t on the human scum list before, he probably is now. Sorry about that, Governor.
It’s tempting to think that people like Baker, Bill Weld, and Romney (who must have thought everyone was telling him to “grow a Pierre” these last few years) will one day soon restore the Republican Party to some semblance of sanity. Even if you don’t have much use for the small government/fiscal conservatism that supposedly drove the Republican Party before it abandoned even the pretense of responsibility, that ethos would be a lot less damaging than what we’ve got now.
But I’m not sure that kind of reversal is even possible anymore. Nobody who abetted this nonsense should be taken seriously ever again, but that category includes the vast majority of elected Republicans in Washington.
Where this leaves the kind of Republican we elect in Massachusetts is hard to figure. Either they’ll all be cowering before President Donald Trump Jr. five years from now, or the Trump era will end in a smoldering orange crater where the Republican Party used to be.
We’re way past any sort of political five-second rule that would allow the GOP to be picked up and brushed off like a muffin that fell on the floor. No, whoever is left standing is going to have to throw away the whole thing.