No one working in the American government can really act alone. Even the president, the nation's top executive, needs to have his decisions and actions bolstered by the people working around him. Even Donald Trump didn't get to the Oval Office on his own, no matter what he claims. So in the future, we'll look back at a government full of enablers — a government full of people who were willing to overlook each one of Trump's abuses and debasements of the office and act like everything was OK, just for the chance at passing some of their legislation.
You saw months of it on the campaign trail, when Republicans who had seen their top-choice candidates fall out of the running gradually began accumulating around Trump, despite all of his statements that would have derailed any other candidate in the past. They were willing to accept a candidate who had called for a full Muslim ban, who made numerous racist statements against Latinos, who was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. That last one did cause a stir, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan did say that he wouldn't support Trump on the campaign trial anymore — but all of it was forgotten the moment those returns started rolling in on the night of Nov. 8.
Paul Ryan worked for years to build an image of himself as a principled and deeply religious conservative, a family man with a cheesy grin, always aiming for fiscal responsibility. What we've learned about Ryan now, of course, is that he's willing to give up all of the principles he previously espoused, just to try to pass a health care plan that would take health insurance away from millions of vulnerable Americans. Women who listened to Ryan's statements on abortion for years could have told you something of his callousness, but his willingness to support Trump is a new level of hypocrisy.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is no better. McConnell decided to change the rules so that President Obama wouldn't be able to nominate a Supreme Court justice in his final year, so it was in his interest to get a Republican candidate into office come hell or high water. Trump has brought hell and high water for the Republican Party, but McConnell got his way on the Supreme Court, and that seems to have been enough to keep him mum about all of Trump's other transgressions. Giving classified intel to the Russians? Firing James Comey after asking him to can the investigation into Michael Flynn? “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda, which is deregulations, tax reform and repealing and replacing Obamacare,” McConnell said in an interview, when asked about the continuing controversies.
It doesn't stop there, however. Vice President Mike Pence has stood by his boss through everything, Trump's primary opponents have kept any concerns mostly quiet, and the Republicans who were literally already gathering material for future investigations into Hillary Clinton have proved reluctant to do the same for Trump, even when it has literally been proven, over and over, that he won the election with help from a hostile foreign government.
Trump cares not for the democratic norms regarding nepotism, his finances, or respect for the office that he now occupies. And through their inaction and refusal to speak out against him, all of Trump's Republican enablers have shown that they don't care, either, as long as he gives them a shot at pushing through their legislation. All this spinelessness, they're assuming, is worth it for the chance at giving tax breaks to the rich and repealing regulations that keep Americans safe. It's a big gamble, though, with such an unpopular president. And when his presidency is done, the blame for whatever damage he inflicts on the nation won't fall squarely on his shoulders. It will go to McConnell, and Ryan, and Pence, and anyone else who let everything slide and, in doing so, gave their support to the actions of this reckless president.
Voters might remember Republicans' inaction in the 2018 midterms and remove them from power, but the damage has already been done. America won't forget Trump, and it won't forget his spineless band of enablers, either.