David Brooks, in a sad attempt to make it seem as though he understands the books he pretends to read, begins his New York Times column by citing Faust with a failed metaphor (“The Republican Fausts”):
Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump.
Meaning they’ve sold their souls to a man Brooks claims they don’t particularly trust or admire in exchange for a bevy of dream legislation getting passed in a Republican-controlled House and senate. But towards the end Brooks simultaneously tries to entertain this idea:
Sooner or later, the Republican Fausts will face a binary choice. As they did under Nixon, Republican leaders will have to either oppose Trump and risk his tweets, or sidle along with him and live with his stain.
Misunderstanding, of course, that there are no choices to be made once a Faustian bargain has been struck. That’s the whole point. Once you sell your soul to Mephistopheles (Trump, in this case), there’s no getting it back. It’s not a 30-day trial where at the end if you’re unsatisfied with the service you can cancel before your credit card gets charged.
Brooks’s metaphor only works inadvertently; a Faustian deal like Trump should condemn the Republicans who enabled him to the pits of hell, but more likely than not they’ll be able to disassociate themselves from him once he’s out of the picture. And how do I know that? Because Brooks provides the framework within which Republicans will shape their argument:
In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration. Trump insulted both parties equally in his Inaugural Address. The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy making.
Step 1: Deny that Trump and his administration are Republican. Literally speaking, it’s impossible, since Mike Pence—a supposed golden boy of conservatism—is his friggin’ VP. Not to mention that if the Republican-controlled senate approves Trump’s appointees, it will be a Republican administration. Oh, and he was elected overwhelmingly by Republican voters. Ross Douthat recently implored those in the media to not imitate Trump, but that’s what Brooks is doing here. You can play Trump a tape of himself imitating a disabled reporter and he’ll respond, “I never did that.” Show Brooks that Trump is the leader of the Republican party and he’ll respond, “He’s not a Republican.”
Step 2: Insinuate that there is a stark contrast between “Republican regulars” and Trump and his acolytes. Brooks spends most of the column pretending that Republicans have never, ever wanted any of the things that Trump is doing, or that the way Trump espouses his non-ideology is “noxious,” or that his bigotry leaves a “stench” that latches itself to anyone within proximity. To pretend that guys like Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell are “Republican regulars” is to pretend that neither has endorsed the man or his ideas—and that neither have proposed similar plans.
(Also note that Brooks once again employs the phrase “ethnic nationalist” to avoid saying “white supremacist” or “fascist” or “neo-Nazi,” the idea being, somewhat bizarrely, that he’s using what can only be described as the ‘politically correct’ term, as it has an unspoken implication that Trump’s white nationalism is comparable to, I don’t know, Robert Mugabe chasing off white farmers in Zimbabwe. But we’re in America, which is predominantly white and currently led by an administration that is white nationalist, which means a lot more than any black nationalist movement could, for example, in the present day. In short, Brooks is a chickenshit.)
But Brooks is hopeful in his own dopey way:
Already one sees John McCain and Lindsey Graham forming a bit of a Republican opposition. The other honorable senators will have to choose: Collins, Alexander, Portman, Corker, Cotton, Sasse and so on and so on.
Really? Gonna put Tom Cotton in a list of “honorable” Republican senators? You mean the guy who blocked an Obama appointee who was dying of leukemia because he wanted to hurt Obama?
With most administrations you can agree sometimes and disagree other times. But this one is a danger to the party and the nation in its existential nature. And so sooner or later all will have to choose what side they are on, and live forever after with the choice.
Love that choice phrase, “existential nature”—not that Trump’s nature poses an existential threat to the nation, but that the nation is in danger because Trump spends too much time pondering Sartre and whether existence really does precede essence.
As for the last sentence, the bargain’s up. They already chose Trump. And they already sold their souls long ago as they pursued agendas of disenfranchising minorities and women, cutting taxes on the rich and cutting services for the poor, using Christianity as a crutch to justify anything they didn’t like. And Brooks, too, sold his soul when he decided he’s spend every week defending Republicans and occasionally deigning to admit “both sides do it.” In a just world, they all would have to pay dearly for it.