Don’t Look Now: But Republican Elites Are Already Getting Aboard the Trump Train
A poll of GOP county chairs shows that they’re already coming home to Big Orange.
Before we get to today’s Triad: I want to talk to you about Will Saletan and The Corruption of Lindsey Graham.
It isn’t an essay. It’s not even longform. It’s a book.
First things first: Don’t try reading this on your phone. If you want to read it on a computer screen, we’ve broken it into chapters here (with audio clips). If you want to download it as a PDF and either print it out or upload it to your e-reader, you can get it here. (We’re working on a Kindle edition. Stay tuned.)
Here’s why this project is important: It’s not really about Lindsey Graham.
Will focused on Graham for three reasons:
He was representative of the pre-Trump R establishment.
He went whole-hog on Trump after the takeover.
He commented in public, in real time, during the entire process, creating something like a ship’s log of his journey.
Going in, you should understand that this story isn’t about hypocrisy. And it’s not a dunk-fest. The point of it isn’t to embarrass Graham or make ourselves feel better for not following on his path.
The point is to understand why and how nearly the entire Republican and conservative establishment made the same journey.
One truth about authoritarians is that they cannot succeed on their own. They don’t just take power, they are given it. And the people who give it to them are their enemies. Successful authoritarians always co-opt existing political establishments. And these establishments are full of figures who hate the aspiring authoritarian, but who gradually conform themselves to his will.
First they oppose him. Then they accept him. Then they believe they can manage him. Then they defend him. Finally, they become his supplicants.
If you want to see what this looks like from the inside, read Diary of a Man in Despair, a contemporaneous account of Hitler’s rise from a conservative German who couldn’t believe what his friends and allies were doing. Will’s book chronicles what this process looks like from the outside.
The Corruption of Lindsey Graham is an important historical document—a compendium that people will need in order to understand this era of American history.
You know where this is going: I have an ask for you.
Putting together a project like this is a big commitment of resources. It took Will more than a year to write, while he was also writing normal pieces for us every week, and doing Charlie’s show on Mondays.
Editing a book is an all-hands-on-deck process which took the entire Bulwark editorial team. Doing the book design and art? Hannah Yoest, as always, for the win. (To see her illustrations all in one place check out the homepage for the project here.)
But the reality of publishing is that when a content aggregator does a 250-word rewrite of a news event, that counts the same as Will’s magnum opus in the eyes of the internet. A click’s a click.
We’re going against the grain with The Corruption of Lindsey Graham for two reasons.
First, because we think this story is vitally important and will help shape our understanding of how to resist authoritarians.
Second, because we believe that the best way to make “the media” better is to build the kind of media America deserves. That’s what this project does. That’s what The Bulwark is.
So here’s my ask: Please share this book. Not just today, but over the next few days. Every time you read a passage that has you shaking your head, tweet it or note it or post it to wherever. Email the pdf to friends you think would find it valuable. All of our efforts go to nothing if we can’t build an audience for it. And we don’t do advertising. We built The Bulwark entirely through you guys. You’re our evangelists because you’re our people.
You’ll notice that we’re giving this book away for free. There’s no paywall. There are no ads. This project that we’ve spent so much time and effort on? We tried to make it as beautiful and digestible as possible and then we chose to put it out in the world for everyone.
That’s been our ethos from the start, because we’re not really a business. We’re a mission. As I like to say: You can’t save democracy from behind a paywall.
So if you’re not a Bulwark+ member I hope you’ll consider joining us to support projects like this. Because they’re made possible entirely because of our members.
And if you’re already a member, see if you can’t convince some of your friends to sign up for our free list, so that they can get the great stuff we make, day in and day out, for everyone.
Thanks for reading. And thanks for your support.
Now go dig in to The Corruption of Lindsey Graham.
1. Of Course They’ll Bend Over Again
I am often asked if I think Republican elites will capitulate to Trump again if he’s the party’s nominee. My stock answer: Not only will they capitulate, but they’ll do it faster and with a clearer conscience than last time.
Why? Because they’ll tell themselves: