Vichy Republicans

Nick Cohen calls the Trump-supporting Republicans – which is most of them – collaborators.

Anglo-Saxon democracies, which were never invaded in the 20th century, have produced a rich series of alternative histories of resistance. When the Nazis win the Second World War, audiences can flatter themselves that they would never have collaborated with Robert Harris’s Fatherland or Amazon’s Man in the High Castle.

No one is more prone to imagining how well they would have behaved in conflicts that they never experienced than American conservatives. The cult of Churchill in the US would embarrass even his most devoted British admirers.

Do they? That’s bizarre. I do the opposite – I always suspect I would be cowardly and selfish. I don’t dare imagine myself behaving well, because I’m not the least bit confident I would have. It’s the same with the Milgram experiment – I always imagine myself being cowed by the insistence of the guy in the lab coat and my shame at messing up his nice experiment.

Anyway – Trump is a fascist, or as close to one as we need in order to know he must not be elected president of the US.

I don’t throw the word “fascism” around, but can we at least accept that Trump follows theFührerprinzip? He has no colleagues, only followers. He is a racist. Not a closet racist, or a dog-whistle racist, but a racist so unabashed that the Klan endorses him. Above all, he has the swaggering dictator’s determination to bawl opponents into silence with screams of “loser”, “dummy”, “fraud”, “puppet,” “biased”, “disgusting”, “liar” and “kook”. As with the web trolls Trump so resembles, it is never the point and always the person. Female news presenters have to explain that they are not asking him difficult questions because they have “blood coming out of whatever” or surrender to him, as Megan Kelly of Fox News did to her shame. Latinos have to explain why they are not rapists and murderers or shut up and give up. Muslims have to explain that they are not terrorists or they lose the right to a hearing. At every stage, the argument is shifted on to the troll’s terrain of ethnic and religious loyalty tests. Except here the troll could become the world’s most powerful man.

It’s still hard to believe we’re even arguing about this. The man is a brawler, a street-fighter, that loud drunk at the bar, that out of control asshole on the bus. He’s sexist racist xenophobic and foul-tempered. There is not one good thing you can say about him.

Conservatives boasted too that they knew that the old-fashioned virtues of good character mattered as much as a man or woman’s ideology. By this reckoning, Trump’s bragging, vainglory, dark fury and towering vanity should disqualify him from the presidency regardless of his politics.

What I’m saying. He’s terrible. If he were an ardent lefty but had all those qualities I would say he’s terrible. (There certainly are ardent lefties like that, and they are terrible.)

Yet McCain and Ryan, those enemies of appeasement, have folded and endorsed Trump. Rubio, that piercing judge of his character, has decided that, after all, Trump’s finger should be on the button. Presidents Bush père et fils are bravely abstaining. Bobby Jindal, who described Trump as a “narcissist and egomaniacal madman”, wants him in the White House. Nearly all the Republican names you remember follow suit. The Dick Cheneys, Rand Pauls and Condoleezza Rices are backing Trump or refusing to commit. Confronted with a dictatorial menace in their own time and their own country they lack the courage to risk the unpopularity that Churchillian dissent would bring.

Even when Trump followed his years of promoting the interests of a dictator of a hostile foreign power by urging Vladimir Putin to hack Clinton’s emails, they held steady in their cowardice. The Republicans, the party of red-baiters and Cold Warriors, is now in the pocket of a Kremlin “useful idiot” and the best its national security conservatives can manage are embarrassed mutters.

My friend and comrade, the American journalist Jamie Kirchick, coined the phrase “Vichy Republicans” to describe its leaders.

They might as well be singing “Maréchal, nous voilà !”

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