Republicans grapple with fallout from seven years of Trump support

Republicans have spent seven years enabling Donald Trump, but they’d like your sympathy and even pity as they deal with the consequences of that.

Trump says hateful, damaging things … and Republicans are expected to answer questions about whether they support that. I mean, can you even imagine having such a hard life? If only there had been anything congressional Republicans could have done to prevent this.

“I’m under no illusions what that would be like,” Sen. John Cornyn told Politico, referring to whether Trump will win the Republican primary nomination. “If it’s Biden and Trump, I’m gonna be supporting Trump. But that’s obviously not without its challenges.” Challenges like a mob storming the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn an election? Cornyn may see it as a challenge, but he didn’t see it as worth voting to convict Trump in his second impeachment. And if Cornyn is “under no illusions” but still sees Trump as simply “a challenge” despite the frightening agenda Trump’s own staff and allies are planning, then he’s complicit.

“We have a lot of people on our side that utilize Donald Trump for their political benefit,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) said, people who “get really tired of answering questions about Donald Trump. And I don’t think that’s fair to the president. You don’t get the good without … the whole package.”

They like big chunks of what Trump has done and wants to do. They just wish they could have it without all those pesky questions.

Other Republicans are afraid of retaliation. This is not a party filled with the most courageous people.

Still, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said plenty in the GOP dread Trump’s return to the political spotlight but “everybody is being more private about it.”

“I wouldn’t expect him to be different,” Simpson said, adding that many colleagues worry about “four years of revenge … we just have to wait and see.”

Again, if only there were anything they could have done to avoid ending up at this point. Who could have predicted that seven years of defending him, pretending not to have heard about his worst offenses, purging their party of his critics, and trying to help him overturn an election would end up with Trump poised to be the Republican presidential nominee again?

Even Trump’s critics within the party are trying to downplay the damage he does. Trump’s statements and social media posts are “almost a stream of consciousness,” according to Sen. Bill Cassidy, one of the Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment. According to Cassidy, the situation now is “analogous to when every day he would tweet, and 99 percent of the time it never came to anything.” Okay, but even if we take that 99% number as truth, the 1% helped incite a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Even Sen. Mitt Romney, perhaps Trump’s strongest Republican critic in the Senate, is trying to fool himself or us about the damage Trump does. “He says a lot of stuff that he has no intention of actually doing,” Romney told Politico. “At some point, you stop getting worried about what he says and recognize: We’ll see what he does.” Hate speech is also damaging on its own, though. Inciting supporters to violence against political opponents or the media is a thing Trump is doing through what he says.

Republicans made Donald Trump. They kept propping him up, and they still do. They would deserve what they get at his hands—only he’ll be doing so much more damage to the rest of the country.

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