Republicans have only themselves to blame

Published 12:49 pm Saturday, October 15, 2016

by John Micek

Republican leaders crying over the Trumpenstein monster destroying them on Twitter (and any real chance their party could capture the White House) have only themselves to blame.

Last summer, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and three-quarters of all elected Republicans made a Faustian bargain with the orange-haired, bile-spewing behemoth who’s now their party’s standard-bearer.

They surrendered their principles – and their party along with it – in the hope that Trump, who won every primary save Ohio, would be the candidate to sink Hillary Clinton.

To do that, Republicans who loathed Trump and feared the havoc he might wreak had to convince themselves that a New York billionaire with zero impulse control, a virtuoso’s mastery of the put-down and an onion skin-thin ego could somehow be transformed into a respectable, mainstream candidate.

It was the ultimate exercise in denial and delusion. And with Trump’s candidacy imploding and Clinton opening a wider lead in both national and battleground polls, GOP leaders moved this week to contain the damage as best they could.

On Monday, in the wake of a competent, but far from winning debate performance by Trump, Ryan announced that he was finally tossing the Republican nominee overboard.

The revelation of a creepy and lewd 2005 video of Trump bragging about groping women was the apparent breaking point — not, of course, all the other vile stuff Trump has said (including several exhortations of violence against Hillary Clinton) since the Speaker threw in with him earlier this year.

Ryan said he would no longer campaign with or defend Trump (which he wasn’t really doing anyway) and he was freeing House Republicans to look after their own campaigns and move to protect the GOP’s majority.

Cynically, Ryan did not – as other Republicans did – rescind his endorsement. And Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus, whose skeletal structure must be made from the same miracle substance as the stretchy comic book hero Plastic Man, reiterated his support as well.

Even still the news provoked a Category Five Trumpian Tweetstorm. The seemingly apoplectic nominee demolished Ryan and other prominent Republicans, including U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

It was as if Godzilla was stomping across Tokyo, blithely ignorant of the fact that he might have to work with the local Planning & Zoning Commission later on the rebuilding effort.

“Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary,” he fumed in one Tweet. “They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!”

Trump then rejoiced that it was “so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”

What shackles? But no matter. Republicans now have what some of them privately feared the most: a wounded monster, limping into the final weeks of the campaign, with absolutely nothing left to lose.

They, of course, have everything to lose.

A Clinton victory will likely result in a Democratic takeover of the U.S. Senate, easing the White House’s path on at least one, but as many as four, U.S. Supreme Court appointments in the coming years.

While Ryan may not have to sweat a total Democratic takeover of the entire House, Democrats could make significant enough inroads to give the Wisconsin Republican a four-year-long case of agita, possibly renewable in 2020.

Ryan and the Republicans now find themselves in the same place that their GOP forefathers found themselves in the 1996 election that saw Republicans abandon Bob Dole to focus on holding the Hill.

Back then, Republicans waited three weeks to toss Dole under the bus. This year, it’s about a month, as Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post reported.

While he has a rabid base, Trump’s support has held steady at about 42 to 44 percent in most national polls. That’s nice, but it’s not enough to win.

The worry for Trump – and for Republicans – should be that the high-profile defections, along with what will likely be another bad month of headlines for Trump, will depress GOP turnout and energize the Clintonistas.

Republicans could well skip the top of the ticket and vote on down-ballot candidates, making the hard decision that, to save themselves, and their Congressional majorities, they’ll have to kiss the White House good bye.

And even then, they’ll still have to live with the wreckage that their creation leaves in his wake.

JOHN L. MICEK, an award-winning political journalist, is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at