This is a frightening time. Having only been president for a few days, Donald Trump has turned bigotry into policy and attacked basic tenets of American democracy. Even more frightening, many respected Republican politicians are supporting and enabling President Trump, and dropping their masks of respectability in the process. The Trump agenda is not possible without collaborators in Congress, which is why it is terrifying to see what these politicians look like without their masks.
In case this sounds overblown, let’s do a brief and highly abridged recap of the Trump administration so far. President Trump has begun to implement the Muslim ban he promised during the campaign by banning immigration from several countries. President Trump’s government has denied immigrants access to legal counsel in defiance of court orders, and pressured some to sign away their Green Cards. The Trump family has brazenly used the Office of the President for personal profit. President Trump has elevated white nationalist Steve Bannon to a position of enormous power in domestic policy, and given Bannon an unprecedented role for a political advisor in national security. And there is much more.
Many Republican politicians are vocal supporters of President Trump’s early actions. Many more are content to let Trump do what he wants if it helps them maintain power. A few Republicans have stood up to Trump, and they should be commended.
None of this should be forgotten. The politicians enabling President Trump are as much of a threat to American democracy as Trump himself. They do not belong near positions of power. Thanks to Trump, we know who they are.
No politician wore his mask better than Paul Ryan. But not anymore. Paul Ryan supports Trump’s anti-immigrant executive order. Paul Ryan shows no interest in Trump’s kleptocracy. Paul Ryan even embraces Steve Bannon. While some have accused Ryan of lacking the courage to stand up to Trump, Jonathan Chait argues persuasively that Ryan is in fact standing for his highest principle. It’s just that Ryan’s highest principle is to reduce taxes for the wealthy, in exchange for which Ryan is willing to accept the ugliest parts of Trump’s agenda. Whatever the reason, Paul Ryan is taking off his mask for President Trump.
When President Trump loses, and I think he will, his enablers cannot be allowed to put their masks back on as if nothing happened. If Paul Ryan has something to say about politics, he can go write for Breitbart where he belongs.