During the election cycle, many Republicans made the valid if not completely persuasive argument that conservatives ought to go easy on Donald Trump’s ideological sins. After all, they said, every word said against The Donald would only serve to damage him and therefore help Hillary Clinton.
But now that Trump is president-elect – now that Hillary Clinton is out of the picture – you’d imagine that Republicans would now hold Trump accountable.
That’s because Trumpism comes along with a hammer. Trump loves hurting his opponents, and now he has the power of the White House to do it. That means that he could easily stomp elected Republicans who have the temerity to challenge him. He’s already reportedly done that with Boeing and the head of the local Steelworkers Union head at Carrier this week. Now Politico reports:
The irony, expressed privately by lawmakers and leadership aides, is glaring. Privately, House Republicans complain that Trump’s infrastructure plan reeks of Obama’s stimulus package (though some argue that Trump, unlike Obama, is likely to rely on public-private partnerships, not just federal dollars, and is likely to be paid for). They say his tariff proposal is ridiculous and using the White House to force companies to stay in the U.S. is inappropriate. Many are afraid to publicly oppose Trump because of his fondness for retribution and use of Twitter to publicly shame his critics. So now, they’re left crossing their fingers that his rhetoric doesn’t translate into actual policy proposals next year. “Sometimes it’s the pioneers that end up with arrows in their backs,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).
Well, that’s awful news: legislators “crossing their fingers” that Trump doesn’t mean what he says about policies he clearly embraces. Great. But the Republicans are right to worry. Trump’s clearly vindictive, as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) found out. That’s one reason Cruz bent the knee to Trump, fearing the possibility of a Trumpian threat to his political career – a threat Trump openly stated.
Trump is apparently forming his political revenge squad, too. Just days ago, The Washington Post reported that Mercer family gun-for-hire Kellyanne Conway could lead “a group being formed that will provide ‘a surround-sound super structure’ to bolster the new administration’s political and policy goals.” This group would take part in smacking around insufficiently loyal Republicans: “the group could be a potent force in the 2018 midterm elections…” While the group would supposedly target Democrats, there’s no indicator that Trump wouldn’t go after other members of the GOP – after all, he said that when Republican candidate Joe Heck lost, he was overjoyed that Heck “went down like a lead balloon.”
Trump’s draw isn’t just a carrot. It’s also a stick. And it will take Republicans of conscience and spine to stand up against him when he’s wrong.
Cross your fingers.