Comey: I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me

It’s my privilege to announce that Salon Conservatives Club now has a frontrunner for its presidential nomination in 2020.

The only debate: Will the ticket be Flake/Comey or Comey/Flake?

Either way, I’m sold on this as the campaign slogan: “Norms. F***ing norms.”

“I just think they’ve lost their way and I can’t be associated with it,” Comey said in an interview on the ABC News podcast “Start Here,” adding that he no longer considers himself a Republican.

He said he believes the Republican Party began to change during the 2016 presidential campaign and has continued to change with President Donald Trump in office. It wasn’t until he was fired by Trump that Comey started to focus more on politics and realized, “These people don’t represent anything I believe in.”…

“I see the Republican Party, as near as I can tell, reflects now entirely Donald Trump’s values,” Comey told host Brad Mielke. “It doesn’t reflect values at all. It’s transactional, it’s ego-driven, it’s in service to his ego. And it’s, I think, consoling itself that we’re going to achieve important policy goals — a tax cut or something.”

He told ABC he’s reluctant to campaign for any presidential candidate in 2020 “but he hasn’t ruled it out.” Can you imagine this guy, whom many Democrats still hate for costing them the election and whom many Republicans hate for his criticism of Trump, thinking any candidate would regard him as an asset on the trail?

The only part of his spiel I disagree with is the idea that the party started to change in 2016. By “party,” does he mean the leadership? Because the leadership hasn’t changed much substantively since Trump’s election. They’re toadies to Trump in public and they’ve gotten more careful about flirting with amnesty now but they’re still strongly anti-Russia, anti-protectionist, nominally social conservative (just don’t ask them about presidential former mistresses), etc. They’ve dropped most of their rhetoric about cutting spending and shrinking government from the tea-party era but they never cared much about that, as the GOP’s record during the Bush presidency will remind you.

I don’t think the base has changed much either. Their enthusiasm for populism was apparent in the ovations Sarah Palin got in 2008 and in the standoffishness towards Romney four years later. The cult of personality that developed around Palin circa 2009-11 also presaged Trumpmania. Tea-party populists sang from the small-government hymnal during the Obama era, which makes their attitudes post-Trump feel like a major shift, but polls at the time showed grassroots Republicans in favor of protecting entitlements and skeptical of free-trade deals. “Smaller government!” was never about enacting a Republican agenda, it was about thwarting a Democratic agenda. That’s the common thread pre- and post-Trump: With a few exceptions, the only thing the party really agrees on or stands for is that Democrats can’t be trusted and their attempted transformation of America should be opposed at every turn. The way to do that during Obama’s presidency was to demand smaller government. The way to do it during Trump’s presidency, with Democrats out of power, is to protect Trump from their attacks at all costs. Every day it seems less strange to me that the GOP nominated Trump and more strange that they nominated Romney. How the hell did that guy end up on the ticket? With Paul Ryan, of all people!

In lieu of an exit question, if the thought of President Comey makes you shudder, here’s a reminder that it could be worse. Much worse.