By now it should be clear that the only lesson President Trump learned from the impeachment process was that almost every elected Republican would support him regardless of what he did. He could use public policy for his self-interest, he could intimidate opponents and spread disinformation, and, yes, he could threaten our democratic institutions.
The GOP will own this moment for decades to come. When historians look back to understand what happened when the incumbent president recklessly attempted to overturn an election in the middle of a devastating pandemic, where every day of the transition counts in terms of saving lives and moving us back to normal, they will see that most of the party didn’t do anything. It’s the story of the Trump presidency.
As I argued in “Burning Down the House,” the Republican pursuit of partisan power has come to overwhelm the basic concerns for governance and the health of institutions. President Trump has exposed a party that is willing to abandon all guardrails in its effort to preserve the ability to push through court picks, deregulation and tax cuts. There is no effort from Republicans to hold the President accountable.
Right now, presidential power runs amok — in ways that are fundamentally different than what we have seen from Democratic and Republican predecessors — and the GOP cooperates. The party that allegedly hates big government sits by as the President wields virtually unlimited power against the nation’s citizens.
The party won’t be able to shake this legacy easily. There is no going back to normal after what we have seen and there can’t be Republicans who say that the party itself is fundamentally different from what President Trump offered the nation. He is the Republican Party, and they stand with him.
There is no going back. Even when this anti-democratic campaign fails, the fact that it happened and the fact that one of our major parties allowed it to happen, is what matters the most.
Given the record, don’t bet on it. Stopping Trump will require action from Democrats, the courts and state legislatures who still believe that our democratic institutions are worth preserving.