Ah, remember the good old days, when the dreamers thought the immense responsibility of the presidency would smooth Donald Trump’s rough edges?
“Now it’s time to bind the wounds of division,” said a visibly chastened president-elect on election night. “I say it is time to come together as one united people.”
The mollifying words were undoubtedly enough to encourage reluctant Republican lawmakers and staffers to put their oars in the water and try to row the president forward in his quest to “make America great again”.
But with this “united” fiction decisively shredded by Trump’s unrepentant response to white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, it’s hard to think of what could be motivating people to continue their service to the President or his office.
It could be to achieve policy goals. Let’s have a look at the record so far:
Gutting Obamacare? Still the law of the land, despite Republican majorities in Congress.
Lower taxes? Still not cut (again, with majorities).
A border wall? Still a dream without much of a plan.
Better infrastructure? Still not being built.
Keeping Muslims out of the country until politicians can figure out “what the hell is going on?” Nope, they’re still coming.
Draining the swamp? It’s still brackish in Washington D.C.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some promises kept.
A conservative on the Supreme Court? Yes, in the person of Neil Gorsuch.
A withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change? Done.
A host of executive orders, including some to cut hated red tape? Done too.
But it’s thin gruel, especially when you consider what you have to swallow along with it:
A president who lashes out at literally any slight, delivered by either serious people or complete nobodies.
A president with only a passing interest (at best) in policy and no apparent ability to master any of the detail of his own program.
A master negotiator who can’t get his own troops to bend to his will in Congress, to say nothing of the hostile forces arrayed against America around the world.
A man with apparently nothing to hide who insists on fanning the flames on Russia by sacking his FBI director, railing against his own attorney general’s recusal from the file, and penning a demonstrably false description of his son’s meeting with Russians promising the dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And now, despite the death of a young woman using tactics aped from Daesh, the president can’t bring himself to unequivocally denounce the white nationalists who march to chants of “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” on U.S. turf.
This, let’s remember, from a man whose favourite word is “loser,” and who delights in forcing his own team into no-holds barred competition and then humiliating them for their loyalty by repeatedly ignoring their advice or contradicting them in public.
This fickle president will attack his staff, his Senate majority leader, his attorney general, the members of his own business advisory council, and the media (ad infinitum) with a vitriol that knows few bounds, but he will not do the same to neo-Nazis.
It has to rankle. Politics is impossible without solidarity in the squad. It’s impossible without leadership. Why would anyone get the president’s back when you know he’s not going to get yours?
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner — both Jewish, let’s remember — have no choice but to stay in Trump’s employ, because the president is family. Likewise Steve Bannon, who is leading Trump down the white-hooded garden path.
But what on Earth can Republican congressmen, Senators, or staffers like about this picture?
Even if you’re a diehard partisan and you want to crush Democrats into the ground, what confidence can you possibly have in Trump’s ability to make that happen? How can you not see Trump’s taint on the conservative brand?
What Charlottesville has made clear is there are fewer and fewer people to blame for Trump’s misfortune.
Yes, you can rage against the media. Yes, you can blame the swamp. But, in the end, it’s the president who is his own worst enemy. Trump is the reason the Trump agenda is going nowhere. For every tweet that lands on the enemy, another five hit the home side.
The money question for those still in Trump’s orbit is the following: is Trump going to change?
If the answer is no, which it clearly is, now is the time to leave the bunker, before the cyanide capsules are handed out.