The coalition that elected Donald Trump president is comprised of two wings. The deplorable wing is made up of members of the so-called “alt-right,” white nationalists baffled by the notion that their skin color no longer guarantees them a place at the top of society’s ladder. The craven wing is made up of establishment Republicans and “movement conservatives” whose privilege allows them to believe that Trump’s cocktail of racism, sexism and xenophobia is an acceptable price to pay for lower taxes on the rich and less welfare for the poor.
And some of them, I assume, are good people.
Trump’s coalition does not make up the majority of the electorate. But thanks to the Electoral College and Republican gerrymandering of House districts, it’s going to dominate American politics for at least the next two years. President-elect Trump has already chosen representatives from both wings to lead his administration: anti-Semitic, white nationalist Steve Bannon from the deplorable wing, and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus from the craven wing.
Though Democrats will hardly be silent, they’ve been relegated to minorities in every branch and at virtually every level of government, so the most effective opposition to Trump — if there is going to be any at all — must come from the party in power. The hopes of millions who are legitimately (and justifiably) terrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency now rest with the same craven Republicans whose enabling behavior helped elect Trump in the first place.
Liberals cannot count on a President Trump to abandon his campaign promises wholesale. Historically, presidents have actually made good faith attempts to keep most of their promises. And in a post-election interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Trump vowed to build a southern border wall and remove approximately two to three million undocumented immigrants “out of our country” upon taking office.
Nor can liberals take comfort in the fact that Trump’s promises will be wildly impractical to fulfill. Policies like building the wall, deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, banning Muslim immigration to the United States and establishing a nationwide stop-and-frisk policy might be impossible to successfully implement. But like a botched execution by lethal injection, a failed attempt to implement these policies is not necessarily better for their victims than a successful one. Any attempt to implement these policies, no matter how disastrous, will succeed at one thing: making life miserable for historically disenfranchised minorities in the United States.
Instead, every decent American must hope that Reince Priebus can stand up to Trump and Bannon. They must hope that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will shirk shortsighted political expediency rather than rolling over for Trump. They must hope that conservative firebrands like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who once called Trump a “sniveling coward,” a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral” and a “serial philanderer,” will serve as a check on Trump’s authoritarianism.
Given the craven wing’s track record, it’s a poor and flimsy hope to have.
Groves is a government sophomore from Dallas. Follow him on Twitter @samgroves.