There is, these days, no shortage of blathering and entirely dangerous statements being made, and precedents being set, by Trump and his acolytes, and by the cowed political leaders of the Trumpified GOP.
But, even in an era of debased politics, we are seeing some entirely extraordinary events.
Late last month, Trump took to his Truth Social site to attack Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. So far, so normal. Except on September 30, his rant took an extra sinister turn, even by his diabolic standards. In casting his vote in the Senate (on unspecified measures) in a way the ex-president opposed, McConnell had, Trump wrote, shown that he has a “DEATH WISH.” Moreover, in an explicitly racist, albeit incoherent, attack against McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao — one of Trump’s own ex-cabinet members — Trump ranted that the Republican leader in the Senate must “immediately seek help and advise [sic] from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!”
Now, put to one side for the minute that this line makes absolutely no sense, and just consider the raw racial animus of this statement. It was the sort of bone-headed racist diatribe that, in a bygone television era, Archie Bunker might have launched. Perhaps more of the moment, it represented the sort of racist bile that has driven up violent anti-Asian hate crimes around the country since the COVID pandemic hit the U.S. in early 2020.
So, how did the GOP leadership respond to Trump whipping up his mob to attack McConnell and Chao?
McConnell and his office responded with a series of no comments, which is pretty much a cowardly par for the course for a man who enabled Trump’s escalating fanaticism throughout his four-year presidency, who said that he held Trump “morally responsible” for the January 6 insurrection but then turned around and marshaled his Senators to vote “not guilty” in Trump’s impeachment trial — thus ensuring that he has remained a loud, and menacing, presence hanging over the GOP to this day.
Most GOP senators simply headed for the hills and declined to get involved in this latest intra-party brouhaha.
And the ones who did make statements were so milquetoast in their observations that they would have maintained more dignity by staying silent. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) mustered up enough courage, when asked about the “death wish” comment to say, simply, “What I want to make sure is what I can do. I can try my best to bring people together.” As for Trump’s racist attack on Chao, Scott noted, “The president likes to give people nicknames.”
It just so happens that the nicknames the Trump-troll likes to give are saturated in the nastiest, most toxic, most inflammatory of racist marinades.
Coherence and moral dignity are in perilously short supply in today’s retrograde version of the GOP. Take, for example, the allegations, published by the Daily Beast, that in 2009 Herschel Walker — at the time a football star, now the GOP’s bumbling, ban-abortion-in-all-circumstances-including-rape-and-incest, fringe candidate for U.S. Senator in Georgia — paid for a girlfriend to get an abortion.
Walker, who has also been dogged by allegations that he held a gun to his ex-wife’s head during a fight, at first denied the allegations in their entirety and threatened to sue for defamation. But, of course, he didn’t. Because it’s one thing denying something on conservative talk radio; it’s another denying it after swearing an oath, in a court of law, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And given that his political campaign apparently knew of the abortion issue months ago, it’s unlikely many of his own crew would have been willing to head to court with him.
Instead, Walker has issued a series of increasingly incoherent pronouncements on the event, including one saying that, hypothetically, had his ex-girlfriend had an abortion and had he paid for it, there would be “nothing to be ashamed of.” Which is actually, of course, true… except, according to previous statements made by Walker, abortion is equivalent to murder, and anyone who has, or facilitates, an abortion is guilty of a crime that ought to result in years behind bars.
As documented by the Daily Beast and other publications, Walker has a long and dishonorable track record of half-truths, misstatements and downright fabrications, including pretending to be a trained FBI agent (he never was one), claiming to have founded a veterans support program, and lying to his own campaign staff about how many children he has had and the fact that he has been taken to court over child support claims.
In more normal political times, the GOP would have dropped Walker like a hot potato months ago. But these aren’t normal times. Trump backs Walker, and that’s good enough for the Trumpian base; and because it’s good enough for the Trumpies, who terrify the Mitch McConnells of the world through their ability to bring fire and fury to all who stand in their way, it’s good enough for the broader party.
Instead of denouncing Walker, GOP bigwigs continue to make excuses. My personal favorite came out of ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s mouth mid-week. “I think he is the most important Senate candidate in the country because he’ll do more to change the Senate just by the sheer presence, by his confidence, by his deep commitment to Christ. You know, he’s been through a long, tough period. He suffered a lot of concussions coming out of football.” In other words, don’t hold Walker accountable, blame the game of football for his blatant lies and dangerous ideas, and then elect him despite it all because he has God on his side.
In the wake of these cascading scandals, other candidates might have chosen to quit the political arena and cite a need to spend more time with their families. But that path would be rather awkward for Walker, since at least some of his close relatives have, in recent days, publicly denounced him.
And so, despite all the scandals, Walker is headed into the November election still a viable candidate aiming to take down Senator Warnock. And in similar fashion, despite all the egregious evidence against him, Trump continues to terrify his Grand Old Party into a degraded submission.
Back in 2016, Trump boasted that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and not lose the backing of his supporters. Now, six years later, Trump is whipping up a violent mob against Mitch McConnell, in much the same way as he whipped up the hangmen of January 6 against his own vice president, and the entire GOP leadership, including McConnell himself, simply have no comment.