Many Republican leaders imagine that they are using Donald Trump to achieve their goals of taking power and delivering small government. Trump, however, is using them to achieve his goal of achieving unlimited power for himself. Trump, if he regains power, will destroy any Republican who stands in his way.
The January 6 Committee’s revelations about Trump’s campaign to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election illustrate the danger Trump’s high- ranking supporters face. When Vice President Pence refused to disobey his oath of office, Trump signaled the mob that it should attack Pence, adding dangerous references to Pence into the draft of his January 6 speech. Far from being appalled at his supporters’ chants of “hang Mike Pence,” he said, “maybe our supporters have the right idea . .. . [Pence] “deserves it.”
The mob erected a scaffold and sought to hunt down the Vice President, who ended up hiding in a secure location a mere 40 feet away from the angry mob. As the Pence hunt continued, Trump poured “gasoline on the fire” in the words of White House staffer Sarah Matthews, by issuing a tweet saying that Pence did not have the “courage” to stop the vote counting. Trump never did call to check on his Vice-President’s safety, even after he’d watched the vicious mob invade the capitol on television.
If Trump is not kept from office, he may yet succeed in establishing an unlimited government that disempowers small government Republicans as well as Democrats. President Trump already has destroyed much of what Republicans once stood for. The government he ran, far from being limited, encouraged an insurrection, undermined Ukraine by threatening to withhold arms needed to deter Putin, abolished free trade, tore up treaties and alliances we had committed to, and made America less secure against foreign enemies.
Trump’s actions show that that he’s perfectly willing to destroy Republicans that stand in the way of his effort to end American democracy and make his power unlimited. The assault on the capital was but a small preliminary byproduct of a long campaign to divide America, assault the truth, subjugate the free press, and overcome democracy’s constraints on his power.
Trump has enlisted many Republican politicians in his campaign to destroy American democracy. These allies have created the mechanisms necessary to substitute the political will of white nationalists for the will of the voters, jump starting the steal Trump would need to win in 2024. In other words, so-called Republicans are helping white nationalists end the Republic.
Trump does not support Republicans dedicated to limited government and democracy. He only supports politicians loyal to Trump.
If he runs again in 2024 and loses, he will claim that he won and use all of the power at his command to take over. He will encourage right wing terrorists to intimidate Republican election officials who certify an opponent’s victory in the primary or in the general election and legitimize violence by deploying legal mechanisms to give them cover. And he may well incite mobs to murder political opponents, including Republicans not ready to back the overthrow of democracy.
If he succeeds in capturing the presidency, what will he do with it? For years, Trump sought to imprison and even execute his enemies, accusing them of treason and reminding people that treason is punishable by death. And the enemies he sought to take down through abuse of the criminal justice system were not limited to Democrats. He sought a criminal investigation of James Comey and other establishment Republicans. In a second term, he would continue to replace officials with limited integrity with even less scrupulous characters until he finally gets people willing to investigate or even jail political opponents and journalists who have committed no crimes. And he will not hesitate to destroy Republicans who stand for limited government, whether through incitement of violence, investigations, or even bogus criminal charges.
Republicans traditionally support a good business climate. Will clashes between Antifa and Trump backed “militias” in the streets of every American city be good for American business? Trump emulates autocrats who use government power to enrich supporters and destroy or extort the businesses of those who oppose him. Will that help America prosper?
Supporting Trump is not realpolitik. It’s capitulation to mob rule and a defiance of the oath to defend the Constitution that provides the basis for limited government. It’s an open question whether Trump’s campaign to establish a white nationalist government in the United States will succeed. But whether it succeeds or not, the Republican party devoted to small government and democracy will die if it does not sideline Trump.