A storm is coming: It might sweep Trump and the GOP into history's dustbin

If Democrats can win after all, Trump is toast and the current GOP is finished. But what comes after that?

By Brian Karem


Published September 1, 2022 6:30AM (EDT)

A tattered flag waves beside a Donald Trump campaign sign in the background of a residence on October 19, 2016 (Mark Makela/Getty Images)
A tattered flag waves beside a Donald Trump campaign sign in the background of a residence on October 19, 2016 (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem writes a weekly column for Salon.

One afternoon in college I found myself picking up trash at a Wendy's parking lot on the Business Loop in Columbia, Missouri.

I can't remember what happened the night before — no nefarious story there.

I simply cannot remember the mundane routine of most days compared to the shock of that one. It began as a beautiful sunny day. Warm. Calm. Nice. I picked up the trash as part of my employment requirements that afternoon and glanced up to enjoy the sun. I looked toward the horizon and in the sky saw what looked like a fat dark purple line drawn by a Sharpie marker. 

I wasn't sure what I was looking at.

In a short time I found out. The squall furiously assaulted Columbia and sent the outdoor garbage cans I had just emptied, flying into the air like rockets.

Rain and hail exploded onto the ground; the combination caused near-immediate flooding and was responsible for broken windows, dented cars, downed trees, downed power lines and many damaged roofs. 

As a lover of big weather, it was memorable.

As strong as it was, that storm is nothing compared to the political storm brewing this fall.

The future of the country is in the balance. Vegas oddsmakers could go either way. The latest polls, current conventional wisdom and some cautionary words for the GOP from Mitch McConnell (who stands out not only for his narcissism but also because he's one of the few Republicans who can count) suggest that the GOP may recapture the House while failing to take the Senate. 

Trump followers, who've evidently studied the Beer Hall Putsch, believe the Trumplican party will be victorious and consume its enemies in hellfire, congressional hearings and a never-ending belittlement on conservative media. Some Republicans with gavel envy and a lust for power are reportedly looking at swatches for their new offices.

They preach civil war and destruction should they not prevail, or if Trump is denied a return to his golden throne. They say those things even as they drive their SUVs less than a mile to go grocery shopping, visit their doctors and hit the drive-through for their favorite cholesterol burger and then a convenience store for smokes and liquor. 

No one's going to risk a real civil war while those things are readily available — not for a period of time longer than it takes to march to the Capitol and get arrested. 

A recent NBC poll reports that "persuadable" voters — which means registered voters who are not core Democrats or Republicans — are "breaking toward the party controlling the White House and Congress," which would be the Democrats.

The Hill recently published an opinion piece that said the GOP's embrace of extremism has dimmed its midterm hopes. Perpetual Republican cheerleader Anne Coulter just announced the political demise of Donald Trump, using the words millions have already mouthed: "Trump is done."

Maybe she's right. Of course, we've heard all this before and that's part of the problem. When it comes to Trump, there's nothing new. It's just reruns and Trump's ratings are wearing thin. People are sick and tired of his pre-pubescent drama. 

Every single person I spoke with in a month-long trip across the country said they'd "had enough" of the ongoing Trump melodrama. They want it canceled.

In a recent month-long trip across the country I visited 15 states and cities, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Some were large, and some were as small as Millersburg, Missouri. Everywhere I visited, and every person I spoke with — more than 100 in 30 days — expressed exhaustion and frustration with politics. And while registered voters of both major parties blame both parties for the sorry state of affairs in this country (while failing to place the blame on themselves), every single person I spoke with said they've "had enough" of the ongoing Trump political melodrama. They want it canceled.

Finally, at a Mexican restaurant in Fulton, Missouri, I met a woman who said she was afraid there is no "United" left in the United States. She had spoken recently with a close relative in Kansas City and that relative was apparently equally fearful about the future. 

"I'm just so tired of it all," she said to me. She blamed Trump for a lack of civility, as well as other politicians and, of course, the media. 

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Progressives. Conservatives. Black. White. Immigrant. Hispanic. Male. Female. Gay. Straight. Trans. Rock n' Roll. Country. Bib overalls, G-Wagon, homeless or anything else. Everyone is tired of it. Well, except the ultra-rich. They're fine with it, since it doesn't adversely affect the bottom line, at least so far. But the rest of us are seriously exhausted by the vitriol in this country — vitriol we've all been intricately involved in creating. OK, some of us more than others.

Inflection point: Now.

The disgust with the lack of civility has converged with a growing anger brought about by the recent Supreme Court case reversing the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision. "The Catholics did that to us," one conservative Baptist told me in West Virginia. (Five of the six justices who voted to overturn Roe are conservative Catholics.) In Los Angeles, a rabbi told me, "I don't need to be preached to by other faiths about morality." 

A "devoutly" conservative woman I spoke with from rural Kentucky was most poignant. Her niece had an abortion because of a life-threatening condition. A "close" family member had an abortion because of an unwanted pregnancy from an abusive common-law husband she later left. 

"No one should tell us how to lead our lives," she explained to me. "That's what the Republicans used to be about. It was my body and my choice not to get vaccinated. The Republicans wanted government to leave us alone to make our own choices. But they don't want that anymore." 

A "devoutly" conservative woman in rural Kentucky told me, "No one should tell us how to lead our lives. That's what the Republicans used to be about: Leave us alone to make our own choices."

A growing number of people now understand the Republicans as a brazen group of feckless bullies. Welcome to the party. The woman I spoke with in Kentucky said something echoed by at least a couple dozen others I spoke with in the last month: "I don't usually vote. I am this year. I've already registered — and I'm not voting for a Republican." 

That continues to be the key for the Democrats. If the voter turnout is large, then the Republicans are done, since there are more registered Democrats. Issues? The Republicans have already conceded on the issues. All the Republicans have left is fear — and that, like Trump, grows wearisome. 

Elie Mystal, a writer for the Nation, said on Mary Trump's livestream show Tuesday that it comes down to whether or not white women have "had enough" with the Republican Party. He's not wrong. But it's not just white women who are ready to flee the GOP. It turns out people don't like it when a civil right they've taken for granted for the last 50 years is suddenly yanked away. Ironically, it is the Republican Party's greatest victory — the Dobbs decision, delivered by a politicized Supreme Court — that may prove to be its undoing. 

Bottom line: Any person capable of cogent thought is fleeing Trump and the Republican party. Anne Coulter proves that even those not capable of cogent thought are fleeing Trump.

Trump is done. Trumpism? Well, waiting in the wings is Ron DeSantis, who already prides himself on limiting access to the media. Even those who love him hate him. Fortunately for the rest of the world — that is, the world outside Florida — DeSantis currently has the popularity of a malignant tumor. Of course, that's never stopped the Republicans. They excel at finding malignancies and helping them metastasize in the body politic. 

*  *  *

I finished my travels this week with a visit to Annapolis. 

There I saw the Reflecting Fools, the new political satire theater group that sprouted from the ashes of the Capitol Steps. The show left me feeling nostalgic for a future filled with education, science and a sense of humor.

I wasn't alone. One line delivered in a skit was met with thunderous applause. "Pay teachers more and Congress less" nearly got a standing ovation. It gave me hope that the United States may yet endure — if we can laugh at ourselves.

Trump can't do that, though he'd probably watch the show — he'll take any attention you throw his way — even when he's being mocked. DeSantis may be the true menace. He struggles to control media access with an il Duce like focus. Hell, when DeSantis frowns, he looks like Mussolini with hair.

A racial skit by the Reflecting Fools, featuring a Kermit the Frog impression, ended on a hopeful note: "We can all talk to each other civilly." It struck a resonant chord among the audience — a diverse, packed house with an average age of around 45, and at least progressive enough to laugh.

The show also featured a skit that posited that Democrats will prevail this November but still, somehow, find a way to "muck it up." It's long-running conventional wisdom that the Democrats will find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but this year it's in vogue to believe that Democrats, despite their propensity for self-immolation, have a real chance to win and solidify their majority in both houses of Congress. If that's what happens, Trump is done and the GOP is screwed. 

If the Republicans could only understand that they did this to themselves. In the end, history may note it was the compulsive need for self-gratification that ultimately soured the most zealous of the Trump Republicans. It's one thing to get screwed. It's quite another to watch someone who wants to screw their own side more than they want to screw their supposed enemies; that's when it becomes too kinky. 

There's little hope for what's left of the GOP. We're watching it die, in a coming tempest that will reshape the political landscape for a generation. It looks to be Ron DeSantis' party now — and he's a true menace.

There's little hope for what's left of the GOP. Lindsey Graham will probably soon be an inmate in a rubber room, or wearing orange. Mark Meadows has gone MIA. Jim Jordan was recently seen on television sporting so much flop sweat that he looked like he just walked out of a college locker room. Jeffrey Clark got dragged out of his house in his pajamas. Rudy Giuliani is the target of a criminal investigation in Georgia. A 23-year-old assistant turned the tables on the former president in a highly publicized edition of the Jan. 6 hearings, and Donald Trump is apparently so upset that he's painting his walls with ketchup after being stupid enough not to return government documents — and lying about them repeatedly while also saying they were planted by the FBI and he declassified them anyway — maybe after he traded them for favors.

We are watching the Republican Party in its death throes.

That death is the nexus of a tempest that will reshape the political landscape for the next generation, and perhaps beyond. Whatever is left of the GOP looks to be DeSantis' party, and he's one of the most vile pieces of political excrement ever flung onto the scene.

So, yes — there is a storm coming. It's not a civil war. It's a reckoning — and I reckon the GOP would rather not face it. All the Democrats have to do is show up and vote, and the Republicans' beloved Supreme Court gave them an excellent reason to do so.

The FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home was merely an affirmation that those eager to flee the GOP needed, to let them know their instincts were right. When the facts are understood, Donald, it turns out that nobody likes a traitor.

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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