At various moments in the presidential election, Republicans have struggled to hop on and off of the Trump wagon, making their support and condemnation of Trump public in the hopes of surviving the political season with their careers intact.
Though we will long remember the handful of Republicans who stood up to Trump’s hate from the beginning, defending the reputation and values of their party over party lines, there are far more Republicans to whom history will not look upon with a smiling eye.
Referring to this exact issue, the president said over the weekend that those who are just now choosing to condemn Trump now have given far too little, far too late.
The president made mention of Nevada Rep. Joe Heck’s recent exodus from the Trump train, Obama said that his glowing comments from before are on video and can’t be simply erased.
“I understand Joe Heck now wishes he never said those things about Donald Trump. But they’re on tape, they’re on the record, and now that Trump’s poll numbers are cratering, he said, ‘I’m not supporting him’? Too late! You don’t get credit for that.”
That truly is at the heart of the Republican internal conflict this season. While being on record supporting Hillary Clinton of all people is practically career suicide, it has become more than clear that backing Trump will soon be seen as far worse.
Those who condemned Trump from the start – or who at least had the decency not to wait until a month before the election – will find that their judgement will be most valued. Those who fecklessly allowed their party to be dominated by a demagogue (Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, etc.), will likely never be elected again. And those, like Ryan, who have secret ambitions for the presidency? Support for Trump will be outright disqualifying.
In one fell swoop, Trump has crippled an entire generation of Republican politicians and invented a litmus test that most fail to pass. Trump hasn’t just ruined 2016 for Republicans, but has likely ruined the next several decades.