By Rick Wilson
Not just Donald Trump, but the roiling, the constant lurid spectacle of Donald Trump: the media, political, and social vortex of attention and travesty that no one can escape. We saw this week from start to finish, the grinding media machine opening the same Pandora’s Box of behaviors that brought us here in the first place; “They’re fueling Trump’s jet…let’s go to our Trump’s jet experts to see how this will affect the trial.” “Trump’s jet is taking off now, and we’ll follow it on FlightAware to determine if -- IF -- they might be delayed coming into LaGuardia.”
Minute by minute, move by move, he’s consuming everything again.
Trump is the media singularity, the deep, black well of condensed matter from which no light or information escapes. He is the insatiable predator of attention and focus, and no one can look away, no matter how much harm we know it does to our country, society, and mental health.
It’s a familiar rhythm, despised and regretted in equal measure, and no one can look away. Every moment, every beat, every grim decline in our standards is chronicled in the telling of Trump’s sordid, crapulous tale. A former President under indictment. The screeching of the right-wing media machine rending the skies with their rage. Endless armies of legal experts parsing the indictments, wargaming a dozen trials and a hundred schools of thought springing up with each new development.
And honestly, I am here for it.
I want the entire elite GOP class to be forced to stare at the monster, a modern Ludovico Treatment of aversion and pain. I want them to ache and writhe at the spectacle of cruelty and corruption. I want them to own every second of it as they spin a skein of excuses and rationalizations.
They wanted to look away and did. Now, they can’t.
For nearly eight years, the party that was the GOP has been a junkie for Trump. Not just a few of them but the vast majority. The raw, unwashed rural, lower-education score cohort of base voters delighted in shoving that needle into their veins and signing contentedly as they mainline all the grubby, barely concealed racism, violence, and chaos. They never stopped watching Trump’s every move.
But the rest of the GOP desperately wanted to move on. Desperately.
The gentry Republicans were like the cocaine tennis moms of the 1980s. They’re a little ashamed of it, but not enough to really stop. They wanted the euphoria of the tax cuts and their handpicked judges, but they’d never go to that part of town for anything as sordid as populist nationalism.
Or would they?
Sometime in early 2021, they slid into the comfortable frame of “Well, as bad as cocaine is, at least I’m not doing heroin” by falling in love with Trumpist candidates who’d been run through the carwash. After all, Ron DeSantis went to Harvard and Yale…he can’t be that bad, right?
They were too smart for the MAGA Matrix of insanity, conspiracy, cruelty, and cultlike devotion to the Dear Leader, right? You could see it when they played the “Well, I don’t like the Tweets, but I like the policies…and besides, the alternative is communism” game. When Trump skulked back to Mar-a-Lago to stew and fume for a while, they thought they could exhale and ignore him.
They dreamed of a post-Trump where they’d be back in the room. They wanted to have the Washington of “Did you see that article in National Review about trade policy? We should work on that in Congress” back. They wanted intellectual conservatism to win the day when it’s a dead force, as spent and bankrupt as their publications.
They can’t admit that the party over which they hope to exercise intellectual dominance is now run by a deranged and destructive crew of nationalist populists who care nothing for conservatism in any form. The base is now radical, authoritarian, separatist, and more overtly driven by culture war and racial animus than Burke or Kirk or Buckley. They’re nihilistic, chaotic, and unmoored to any ethical standard or intellectual framework except their roaring hate and constant fury.
As for elected Republicans, the House is now the province of the horde, and they’re reveling in the return to Trump. In the Senate, they’re experts at looking away; if you need an example, consider the elite GOP’s transition on the January 6th terrorist attack on the United States. From outrage on the Senate floor to “Well, it was kinda sorta maybe wrong, but I’m not going to vote to convict him on impeachment” to “The J6 political prisoners must go free” is one hell of a transition, but they’ve made it.
Trump won the primary the day Alvin Bragg indicted him, and every other GOP candidate neutered themselves by defending Trump against the rule of law. They’re all dead, they just don’t know it yet. The trick of every deal with the Devil is that the Devil always lies. Each of them wanted to placate the MAGA mob and avoid Trump’s rage by supporting him against Bragg. What they did was eliminate their only predicates for running against him. Time for a change?
It’s why I’m glad we’re back here again. In politics and life, pain is the only real teacher. The few of us on the right who broke out of Trumpism and stayed in the fight against it knew this moment was coming. We understood its cruel gravity and its inevitability.
The 2016 time loop will repeat all the pain and mistakes until the elite GOP, the Republican donor class, and the media learns their lesson. They want the monster to disappear, but the only solution is to slay it once and for all. It’s not a choice between communism and Trump.
The choice is America or Trump.