Many families have a grandfather or an uncle who, in his prime, was the patriarch, the family’s force and compass. His counsel was sought and heeded. He was treated with the utmost respect and deference.
But, as the years passed, his power waned, his acuity dulled, his admonitions began to sound archaic. The family reordered itself. So another man or a woman became the leader and the grandfather or uncle was demoted, without any formal proclamation but by familial inertia, to a kind of elder emeritus.
The family still loves him and honors him, but they also regularly tune him out or ignore him. He was integral to the family’s journey but is now only incidental to its future.
This is what is happening to Donald Trump in the Republican Party, a dynamic underscored by the disastrous speaker battle in the House of Representatives. Donald Trump is essentially being put out to pasture.
Not only is there no love lost between him and Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate (in September, Trump accused McConnell of hating him), Kevin McCarthy, his choice for speaker of the House, was blocked for days by some of Trump’s most ardent — and outrageous — acolytes.
Trump’s calls to holdouts didn’t immediately quell their opposition.
Before one of the votes for speaker, Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a woman who once said that Trump was called by God to run for president and was “anointed for that position,” rebuked Trump and McCarthy. Giving Trump instructions rather than taking his, she told her fellow Republicans in the House:
“Let’s work together. Let’s stop with the campaign smears and tactics to get people to turn against us. Even having my favorite president call us and tell us we need to knock this off. I think it actually needs to be reversed: The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that ‘Sir, you do not have the votes, and it’s time to withdraw.’”
Talk about damning with faint praise. She suggested that Trump wasn’t even operating on his own convictions but was being told what to do by the Republican House leadership. It sounded laudatory, even loving, but it was a cutting reprimand, the way we Southerners say, “Bless your heart,” with a smile but dripping in disdain.
At one point during the voting, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida almost mockingly nominated Trump for speaker. (The speaker doesn’t have to be a member of the House.) Gaetz had been a ferocious Trump defender, but he recently tweeted after Trump urged him to fall in line behind McCarthy: “Supporting McCarthy is the worst human resources decision President Trump has ever made. Sad!”
Trump has suffered a staggering string of losses, most recently watching voters reject many of the candidates he endorsed during the midterms, and the speakership battle, which ended in McCarthy ceding so much power that he is essentially a speaker-in-name-only, was another loss for Trump, because it exposed the fact that his devotees no longer mindlessly follow his directions.
Trump knows better than most that loss lingers on a person like a rancid odor.
Trump, like every other president, had a moment, but now the sun is setting on that moment. The country and his own party are drifting away from him. He is shrinking in open view.
But, if Trump is not the leader of his party now, who is? By default, even if diminished, he retains the title, even without the power. So, in a way, the Republican Party is a runaway chariot. No one fully controls it.
The party became so anti-establishment and pro-iconoclast that it actually came to reject institutional procedure and tenured professionalism. You can only operate so long with a throw-the-bums-out mentality before you run out of “bums” and realize that you’re left with no one to replace them but scoundrels.
The people who ground the workings of the House to a halt are the progeny of Trump’s chaos.
In Greek mythology, Cronus, who had overthrown his father, Uranus, learned that one of his children was destined do the same to him. So he ate them all. But his sixth child, Zeus, came along and was hidden by Zeus’ mother. When Zeus was older, he forced Cronus to disgorge his siblings (gross, I know), and together Cronus’s children overthrew their father.
The Republican Party, and Trump himself, are also caught in this loop: They topple their party’s “establishment” every few years only to become the establishment in need of toppling.
The party has completely lost sight of the values of wisdom and service, of paying one’s dues and working one’s way up. For it, every cycle is a revolution and a war. In the long run, this is bad for the party and for the country.
But, in the short run, it’s even worse for Trump. His protégés are coming to either overthrow him or put him out to pasture, and there is precious little he can do to stop them.
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