No matter how easy we may make it look, writing satirical or critical commentary about the president of the United States is much harder than it appears, and not from too little material but too much. How can we compete with his own Twitter account, let alone reality?
Recent days offer the perfect example: telling four American citizen members of Congress — three of whom were born in the United States — to go back to their own countries. This from a president who is the grandson of a German immigrant, is the son of a Scottish immigrant, and whose Slovenian wife has a dubious immigration history, not to mention his in-laws reaching our shores via the very chain migration he otherwise vilifies. Yes, it’s hard to be original in critiquing an administration that parodies itself almost hourly.
And so we are forced to plow the most difficult terrain of all in search of new insight: history — our own and that of early America. Your faithful correspondents both grew up Republican, in Christian households. We lived in fear of Soviet opposition to democracy, believed that protecting children was a pre-requisite for God’s blessing of the nation, assumed that free trade would lift all boats, accepted without question that welcoming immigrants into American society was one of our most important secrets to success.
We also heard from the pulpit that a nation couldn’t be considered moral if we allowed immoral leaders to run the country. We didn’t expect perfection — all humans sin — but we hoped for at least some gestures toward redemption.
And here we are today, baffled by what has become of the Grand Old Party and its underlying conservative movement. Historians will argue when precisely the party pivoted and whether it was a long, incremental shift or a sudden lurch toward what it is today. Yet it was only spring 2013 when the Republican National Committee issued an “autopsy” of devastating 2012 election results: If the GOP were to survive, the RNC warned, it would have to expand outreach to women, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters. It would have to support “comprehensive immigration reform.”
And then, Trump. It’s one thing to challenge conventional wisdom but quite another to turn fundamental principles and values on their head, but so he did with his p-grabbing, immigrant-bashing, tariff-boosting, transgender-soldier-expelling, Central-Park-Five-accusing, birtherism-birthing ways. Sure (per Gallup), the percentage of people identifying as Republicans has nosedived from 35% in June 2006 to 26% this June, but, boy, are the holdovers energized and unified behind their king with the resplendent bouffant.
Modern Republicans might learn a thing or two from the 64% nine-month mortality rate of settlers arriving in April 1607 with Captain John Smith to colonize what is now Virginia. Rather than doing the hard work of preparing to survive the harsh winter, they pursued more immediate gain: They delayed the departure of a resupply ship for three months till it could be fully loaded with what they were certain was gold. Turns out they traded their salvation for worthless mica.
President Trump certainly glitters in the sun. Is he real gold? Merely mica? Or perhaps pyrite — better known as “fool’s gold”?
Trump’s tirades against immigrants (now extended to citizens), his disdain for the First Amendment (and those who employ and champion it), his affection for criminality, misogyny and nepotism, as well as his dictator dalliances, are considered the price we must pay (par for the course?) for tax cuts and anti-Roe v. Wade judges.
Were we still Republicans, we’d bemoan the fact Trump has thrown a very exciting party but one that ends with the GOP in hospice. Many authentic conservatives have sounded the alarm, from George Will to Max Boot to George Conway to Charlie Sykes to Ross Douthat to Bill Kristol. Unfortunately, we too are passengers on the same national ship Trump is piloting at full speed toward every iceberg he sees, with the expectation he will be a hero for steering the boat away from calamity at the very last minute.
How many of the settlers in Jamestown suspected what they were surrendering a faster supply of food for was not real gold but instead only the cheapest of imitations? No doubt some did — just as we know of Republican friends who feel a bit nauseous at the whole Trump experiment but have chosen to suspend disbelief and skepticism in the expectation that surely so many of their fellow party members could not be so mistaken.
Do they dare vote for William Weld in the Republican presidential primary, or for a third-party candidate, or hold their nose and vote for the Democrat? We hope so. Yet we see that only four and a half [Justin Amash] House Republicans voted this week to condemn our president’s latest racist rants. The typically refried excuse seems to be that offered by Republican Congressman Bill Flores while waving a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution during what passed for a “town-hall meeting” this week: “It doesn’t say part of my job description is to respond to every one of the president’s tweets. That’s just not a habit I’m going to get into.”
So it is left to us. Consider these tips for telling real gold from mica and pyrite. Real gold will bend; the others usually not. If flakes shatter or break, they’re not gold. If you scratch a larger piece of pyrite, it will smell like sulfur. Gold shines while the others are more glittery in appearance. Gold remains the same color at different angles; the others vary by the side facing the light.
Sad enough to die in pursuit of gold. Sadder still to starve to death for a fortune built on foolishness and deceit. If Republicans want a party that lasts, they need to pull that 2013 autopsy off the shelf. Heed its advice: “blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare”; if Hispanic Americans do not believe we welcome them in America, “they will not pay attention to our next sentence”; “…the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming”; the Party must recognize the “unique opportunities female candidates provide in winning elections”; and there is a need to broaden “the base of the Party and inviting as many voters as possible into the Republican Party.”
We’ve heard and read quite enough about how the Democratic Party should focus more on reaching Trump voters and less on energizing its own base. Fair enough. Our message today is to our Republican friends: The bus is headed off a cliff and we notice you are still buckled in. Turn back (or jump out a window) now or your party’s demise will have been fully earned.