My fundamental objection to Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign was that I believed him to be an unqualified liberal conman. While nothing we have seen from him as president, except for his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, has remotely contradicted this assertion, recently Trump himself has been raising the issue of which “team” he is really on.
Over the weekend, on Twitter, Trump, seemingly out of the blue, lambasted Republicans who lack loyalty (to him) and aren’t doing enough to protect “their” president. Then, on Monday, he bizarrely told thousands of Boy Scouts, who responded with a mix of cheers, confusion, and controversy, that he wishes there was a whole lot more loyalty (to him).
It is clear that Trump feels that Republicans should be fighting harder for him, as if enough of them haven’t already degraded themselves completely with their nonsensical and hypocritical defenses of his various absurdities. He seems to be basing these hurt feelings on his delusions that he somehow helped get a lot of Republicans in Congress elected, which (surprise!) is just not accurate.
In fact, there is a far better argument to be made that Republican candidates carried him to his upset victory than vice versa. The two states where Trump considerably outperformed Mitt Romney’s 2012 totals were Pennsylvania and Florida. In both of those states Trump was significantly outperformed by incumbent Republican Senators in very competitive races.
This will probably not shock you, but the real basis of Trump’s belief that he deserves Republican loyalty is really all about HIM. He knows that he is awesome, and that him deciding to grace the GOP with his greatness while also saving the party/country from a dreaded Hillary Clinton presidency is worthy, in his mind, of eternal gratitude/loyalty.
Certainly the base of his public support, which I refer to as “Cult 45,” is convinced that he is on their “team” and worship him like New England Patriot fans do Tom Brady. However, those on the actual “team,” the Republican Party, have plenty of reasons to question which uniform he is really wearing and if he really cares about anyone, or anything, but himself.
Let’s look at how much loyalty the Republican Party really should have to President Trump. If we assume that loyalty needs to be a two-way street with both partners delivering at about the same level for the other, then the answer is that the GOP owes Trump very little, if any.
Trump has yet to deliver on any of his major legislative promises and his complete lack of focus and dismal approval ratings has made it nearly impossible for the GOP Congress to do all the heavy lifting themselves. Here, Trump is like a guy who asks people he hardly knows to help him move in to a new house, barely even shows up on moving day, and then blames his “friends” when the job isn’t done to his liking.
But it isn’t just that, thanks mostly to Trump, the GOP is blowing a once-in-a-generation (and perhaps last?) opportunity to make real conservative-based legislative advances. It is also the obvious reality that Trump has exhibited zero loyalty to those Republicans who have put themselves on the line for him.
Lots of Republicans who were his most vocal supporters during the campaign never even got a job in his administration to begin with. Sean Spicer has already resigned after being constantly humiliated. Former GOP head Reince Priebus, who sold his soul to Trump far too early during the presidential primaries, appears to be in the process of suffering exactly the same fate, as are many of the Republicans he hired.
Then there is what Trump is doing to his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the former GOP senator who was the very first major elected official to endorse him. Trump’s shameful treatment of Sessions would be disgraceful even if he was just an aide, but the fact that he is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer during a time of extreme uncertainty due to the Russia probe makes this outrage downright scandalous.
Assuming Sessions and Priebus (both of whom have already been castrated, essentially) do eventually leave, this would mean that it would be nearly impossible to discern that Trump was running a Republican administration. His two top aides would be his son-in-law Jared Kushner (a clear liberal who is also married to one), and Anthony Scaramucci who, much like Trump, has taken many very liberal positions and given lots of money to major Democrats in the not too distant past.
Other conservative-minded members of the administration, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, may also be leaving soon. Even Steve Bannon, also said to be on the outs with Trump, was never a “Republican” to begin with, and yet his presence might end up being the last remnants of Trump pretending to be remotely conservative.
Under this scenario, there would be a president who until very recently was a life-long Democrat, who has done literally nothing to pass Republican legislation, who has no strong GOPers in his immediate orbit, and who has, on multiple occasions, referred on Twitter to Republicans as “they” instead of “us.”
Gee, I can’t understand why Republicans might be wary of going to war for Trump!
The reality is that with Trump loyalty is a lot like making a deal with the devil. He provides you with virtually nothing while trying to fool you that he has really given you the world, all while expecting your eternal soul in return.
It’s all part of “The Art of the (Really Bad) Deal,” and was obviously his modes operandi from the very beginning. Seeing supposedly smart people finally realize this only after it is far too late is, I must say, both sad and hilarious.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.