The rise of the Banana Republican

The situation in the United States is this: The Republican party chose as its nominee an inept and obviously unfit candidate, and the American electorate chose that candidate over Hillary Rodham Clinton, an inept, corrupt, and obviously unfit candidate. Mrs. Clinton was by 2016 a familiar figure, one who was, as P. J. O’Rourke put it, “wrong about absolutely everything, but wrong within normal parameters.” The fundamental tension of the moment is between Trump’s unfitness for the office and the fact that he was — and no amount of wailing about the Kremlin will change this — legitimately elected.

The Democrats, stung by the reversal of what they believed to be their candidate’s inevitable ascent to the presidency, have attempted to resolve that tension by removing one of its two constituent elements: Trump’s electoral legitimacy. Trump is surrounded by shady and self-serving people, but there is not any meaningful evidence that his campaign colluded with Moscow, or that such collusion, if it existed, changed the outcome of the election, which was decided by a few thousand blue-collar and middle-class voters in areas that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign took for granted. This is an exercise in intellectual dishonesty and, perhaps, a coping mechanism for a party and a movement that cannot believe its standard-bearer was rejected for an atavistic George Wallace–style populist with one game show and two pornographic films on his résumé, a man capable of responding to (not unreasonable) accusations of anti-Mexican prejudice with an advertisement for Trump Tower Grill’s taco bowls and a tweet reading “I love Hispanics!”

Republicans, in spite of their commanding political position, are for the moment essentially frozen. One suspects that this suits Senator Schumer just fine. Getting the schoolmarms in Minneapolis all riled up is good for fund-raising, and the Democrats have been laid so low that they do not have very much to lose.

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