It’s enough to make you feel bad for William Jennings Bryan.
Of course, you may fuzzily recall this guy’s name from your high school history class. Today, Bryan is remembered for three things:
- Giving the “Cross of Gold” speech, whatever that was
- Looking like a buffoon during the Scopes Monkey Trail
- Becoming the only nominee of a major political party to lose the popular vote three times.
But that last shred of infamy is in serious jeopardy, because the homunculus of racism—Donald Trump—recently announced that he is back, baby, and running for president once more.
A year ago, this “shockingly low-energy” announcement might have angered progressives who wondered, quite reasonably, why attempting a violent coup was not a disqualifying offense for a potential president.
But today, post-midterms, Democrats are giddy at the thought of putting Trump in the same category as Bryan (i.e., three-time loser). Republicans, meanwhile, are feeling nauseated at the thought of another campaign where they have to spend all their time appeasing a septuagenarian crybaby and explaining to voters that the guy really didn’t mean to insult their families and threaten everyone’s life.
Yes, the GOP is finally showing its first signs of Trumpian regret. No, this isn’t because Republicans have come to their senses, or found their backbone, or been shamed into repudiating the rampaging hatred of their party’s leader.
It’s because even though every political analyst and progressive warned them years ago, conservatives are at long last realizing that Trump is a fucking loser. The man lucked into an electoral college victory in 2016 but has been a political disaster ever since. And he is not getting any more popular as he ages, the voting block gets younger, and revelations of his corrupt administration become more horrific.
We should also mention the obvious point that mainstream media pundits are politely ignoring, which is that his biggest fans are unvaxxed senior citizens who are dying off faster than they can be replaced.
So Republicans are taking hesitant, tentative steps away from the man they once proclaimed was bigger than Jesus. They still won’t directly criticize him for little mishaps like, for example, having intimate dinners with white supremacists and deranged Nazi-loving rappers. That’s asking too much.
Instead, the denialists are frantically trying to change the subject, insisting that now is the time to “rededicate the Republican party to free trade, competitive enterprise, fiscal and monetary prudence, deregulation, and the encouragement of legal immigration.”
Yeah, let’s talk about all those things! It’s like the previous six years of death, incompetence, and insurrection never happened. These Republicans have moved on. Why can’t you?
Talking to a conservative of this type is like asking a crackhead why he just stabbed you, only for him to say, “That never happened. Give me 10 dollars.”
Then there are the unrepentant Republicans, who are “proud of the accomplishments” during the Trump administration, even if those accomplishments existed solely of throwing money at billionaires and packing the judiciary with religious zealots. These Republicans aren’t apologizing for embracing fascism, but they are willing to dump their former savior “because I want to win, and we lose with Trump.”
There’s a certain refreshing honesty to saying that you don’t care how much you destroyed the country, you just want to win.
Speaking of honesty, there are also those Republicans who are publicly stating that “it is time to stop being afraid of any one person”—thereby verifying every progressive accusation about conservatives being cowardly ass-kissers who knew their leader was a psychotic bully but were too craven to do anything about it.
This type of Republican hopes that admitting they are just a pack of wimps and sycophants will not dissuade you from voting for the GOP. In some kind of reverse-psychology mind trick, we are supposed to view these gutless yes-men as strong leaders.
OK, so it’s infuriating that people who could have stopped the madness years ago want to pretend that they are blameless. In truth, the GOP accepted “the possibility of the future degradation—or outright demise—of American democracy if it served the goal of a reactionary political agenda.”
But now they want you to forget all that. Over the past few years, the GOP “increasingly has selected for traits like acquiescence, extremism, and insanity.” Republicans loudly and repeatedly “rationalized, enabled, covered up, or ignored one incident after another, imagining they would never be held accountable.”
But that’s not how it works. Personally, I believe all Republicans running for office should have Trump’s face tattooed onto their chests, so that they can never deny their fidelity to him. They should be asked, over and over again, why they didn’t intervene. They should be forced to explain in what universe spineless groveling to a xenophobe is a positive trait. They should be made to apologize and never stop.
But they won’t do that. Instead, they will get blustery and self-righteous and rant about the woke mob, and millions of Americans will support them despite clear evidence of their horrific behavior.
And if, as is entirely likely, Trump wins the GOP nomination in 2024, they will line up obediently behind him, ready to go down in flames again as a sacrifice to their angry god. Hey, if he wants to run again in 2028, the GOP will let him.
But, damn, even William Jennings Bryan eventually got the hint.
Featured image: Former President Donald Trump, who announced his intention to run for president again in 2024 (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)