To Republican officeholders: Dump Trump now

Before it’s too late for you, your party or the country

By David Cay Johnston
May 3, 2020 8:00AM (UTC)
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(Getty Images/Salon)

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Now is the moment for elected Republicans held hostage by Donald Trump to break free. The political gun he has held to their heads, threatening to end their careers unless they cravenly bowed down, is out of bullets.

Trump's own polls show that Joe Biden will trounce him. Behind closed doors in his classic privileged-boy style  Trump shouted at his own campaign staff as if it's their fault.


Scaredy-cat Republicans who made a pretense of respecting Trump for the last four years now face the opposite problem. If they stick with Trump, voters will turn on them come November.

And what of Trump loyalists who don't take advantage of this opportunity to return to the tattered remains of Republicanism, a conservative party now of tax cuts for the rich and gentle regulation of industry?

The remaining loyalists are the moral jellyfish of American politics — spineless, blind and drifting aimlessly in the waves of chaos and craziness flowing from the Trump White House.


Decency, self-respect

Some of these true believers may get re-elected because Trumpers form a majority in their district. But the price of choosing Trump over common sense, decency and self-respect will be high. They will lose their influence.

Within their party they can expect to become pariahs, relegated to back benches, their requests to their donors ignored. Democrats, with a majority in the House and, quite possibly, Senate next year, will treat these Trumpians civilly while silently holding them in contempt as morons, if not latent threats to our democracy.


You can expect news stories a year or so from now about a new version of Stockholm syndrome. That will be used to explain the plight of politicians who identify with Trump, their political and emotional captor, even after he is out of the White House.

Ohio's Republican governor


Republicans who lost their way and want a second act in American politics now have a leader. He has shown that they can improve their political fortunes by escaping the incompetence and immorality of Trumpism. That leader is Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio.

After DeWine stopped subjugating himself to Trump's malignant narcissism his approval numbers rose. Asked about DeWine's handling of the pandemic, 85% approved, compared with only half for Trump. That's not surprising since Trump's declarations about opening the economy as if the coronavirus is magically vanishing aren't resonating.

Most Americans are smart enough to realize that Trump's nonsensical chatter about injecting disinfectants and somehow focusing ultraviolet light inside our bodies is both dangerous and dumber than dumb. About 80% of Americans, polls show, believe we need to stay home to save lives. About one in six Americans thinks the various and limited lock down orders have not gone far enough.


Dying supporters

The ranks of those who believe that the virus is a hoax, can be treated with drugs Trump pushes or that the blood of Jesus will shield them are slowly dwindling as the grim reaper enjoys a bountiful harvest.

Trump's strongman facade is collapsing as his words and deeds show he has no idea what to do in this crisis.


His outrageous assertion that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote, which his lawyers expanded to asserting he would be immune from investigation by NYPD homicide detectives, may have been true. But killing tens of thousands of Americans through denial, incompetence and mismanagement is costing him millions of votes from Main Street USA.

Trump tricked 63 million Americans with his claims of being a "very stable genius" and the world's greatest expert on 23 subjects. How those claims plus his wildly inflated and gyrating claims of being a billionaire failed to make him a laughingstock will keep political science and mental health scholars writing papers for decades to come.

Delusional and stupid

The awful truth, which I've devoted the last five years to showing all Americans, is that Trump is a delusional ignoramus. Central to understanding Trump's inability to lead or any in this crisis is a simple fact: Trump operates from what he wishes to be true. He incapable of processing new information that contradicts what he imagines.


Trump is so stupid that doesn't know antibiotics fight bacterial infections but are useless a virus. Here is the official White House transcript in which Trump made statements as bizarre as they are confused and dumb:

This is a very brilliant enemy.  You know, it's a brilliant enemy.  They develop drugs like the antibiotics.  You see it.  Antibiotics used to solve every problem.  Now one of the biggest problems the world has is the germ has gotten so brilliant that the antibiotic can't keep up with it.  And they're constantly trying to come up with a new — people go to a hospital and they catch — they go for a heart operation — that's no problem, but they end up dying from — from problems.  You know the problems I'm talking about.  There's a whole genius to it. We're fighting — not only is it hidden, but it's very smart.  Okay?  It's invisible and it's hidden, but it's — it's very smart.

Trump's own words above and elsewhere also make clear that he doesn't understand that a virus is not quite life since it needs a host to replicate. Calling "the germ" both "brilliant" and "very smart" is monumentally stupid.

Cares only for himself


Trump is, in its classical meaning, an idiot. To the ancient Greeks an idiot was someone who cared only for himself.

Trump has used the pandemic to not just pat himself on the back but make ludicrous claims, such as asserting Tuesday that his daughter Ivanka created 15 million jobs. There is zero evidence that she created a single American job, but the official records show that twice that many Americans lost their jobs in the last six weeks.

The coronavirus is not Trump's fault. But his ignorance, denial and mismanagement are. The butcher's bill is over 62,000 needless deaths.

Trump says repeatedly that no one could have predicted this pandemic. Malarkey.


We knew something like this was coming for a long time. We had a nasty virus outbreak in 1957, when Eisenhower was president. In the 1960s, many college students, including me, studied the virtual certainty there would be another killer pandemic in our lifetimes. We also learned about 1917 to 1920 flu that killed almost 3% of all humans, including Trump's paternal grandfather.

Of course, it was coming

In this century, we had flashing red light warnings: the deadly scourges of Ebola, MERS, SARS and swine flu.

The last of those so rattled former President Barack Obama that his team created a guidebook on how to deal with a pandemic, created a White House national security pandemic team and ran a training exercise for the incoming Trump White House staff.

Trump threw that all away, every bit of it.

That Trump cares for himself and no one is clear is so obvious now that it's hard to understand why every Republican has not joined DeWine in separating themselves from Trump. That some Republicans have said the economy matters more than human life shows the depravity and immorality of the self-proclaimed party of family values now that it has descended into the Trump's Dante-esque circle of mass death.

For cowed Republican officeholders, the time has come to climb out of the Trump hellhole or be consumed by its flames.

David Cay Johnston

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