INDIANAPOLIS – One of the biggest guessing games in American politics these days involves speculating on what, if anything, would cause Republicans to abandon President Donald Trump.

The speculation intensifies each time a GOP defense of the president’s conduct collapses as more facts emerge.

There was no quid pro quo involved in Trump’s dealings with the Ukraine government? Multiple witnesses and the “transcript” of the July conversation – really, a memo – the president touts as his get-out-of-jail card say otherwise.

The Ukrainians didn’t know their desperately needed military aid was in jeopardy if they didn’t do some political work for President Trump? Turns out, again confirmed by multiple witnesses and records, that the Ukrainians did know, and they were scared witless about it.

The president and all the president’s men didn’t know they could be violating the law by withholding that aid? Again, turns out they did know and were frantically checking just how long they had to play games with the Ukrainians before any legal hammers dropped.

The fact that so many Republicans remain devoted to this president even as he gets caught in one lie or deception after another puzzles many people and appalls still others.

Me, less so.

Partisanship is as American as apple pie. Even in the earliest days of the republic, when the founders issued warning after warning about the dangers of “faction,” they were forming – you guessed it – factions.

Literally, political parties were being formed at the time that the leaders of those parties deplored the rise of political parties.

That’s why it’s not surprising that the GOP faithful today remain committed to this president. There isn’t much point – nor much benefit – to being part of a tribe if one is not loyal to that tribe.

Republicans in the Watergate era stayed loyal to Richard Nixon until doing so threatened the party itself. It wasn’t disgust with or disapproval of Nixon’s crimes that prompted the GOP to abandon him. It was that he had become such a political cancer that he threatened the well-being or even the survival of the tribe itself.

For that reason, he had to go.

Similarly, Democrats stuck with Bill Clinton during his impeachment battle because abandoning him would have cost the party more than clinging to him did. Many Democrats were appalled by Clinton’s conduct, but the tribal instinct asserted itself – and that instinct sustained Clinton through his crisis.

So, it’s not shocking to me that Republicans are hanging with Trump through this battle. At present, they have far more to fear from throwing him overboard – primary challenges and a badly divided party going into the 2020 election – than they do from clinging to him.

What is surprising, though, is that they aren’t taking more steps to protect the tribe from this president’s recklessness.

I’ve lost track of the number of times that Republicans have staked out positions in defense of Donald Trump that prove factually and legally untenable. Sometimes the reality that the GOP has dug in on crumbling ground has become clear within days of Republicans erecting their barricades. Sometimes, it’s evident within hours. And, sometimes, within minutes.

Given that this is a partisan nation with a partisan history living through a particularly partisan time, it should be expected that Republicans will stick with one of their own for as long as they can.

I keep wondering, though, when or if the GOP chieftains will confront this president and ask, how bad is this going to get? How much more is there?

Knowing what’s coming would allow Republicans to craft lines of defense that can’t be eroded with the next bit of testimony or an upcoming release of a key record.

The fact that Republican leaders aren’t asking that question suggests they fear what the answer could be.

They’re acting as if the cliché were true – that ignorance is bliss.

The bet here is that it won’t be.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Recommended for you