The only way to survive if you're a modern day member of the Republican establishment is to have a very short memory. That's the only possible explanation for how the kind of cognitive dissonance is avoided that would shut down the entire central nervous system of a normal, rational human being. If you're, say, Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, it's essential that whatever you stated or believed wholeheartedly in the past be either malleable or outright disposable should unfortunate new information be introduced to you -- such as, you know, Barack Obama suddenly embracing those ideas or beliefs. If you're a GOP standard-bearer in 2016, you've got to be ready to jettison all you held dear five minutes ago in the name of never, ever, even for a moment being seen agreeing with the worst, most divisive, most illegitimate president this country has ever seen.
Actually, there is another explanation for why any firmly held GOP ideal can and should be adjusted when it's politically convenient, often in the name of scoring an enemy scalp: because the current GOP is made up of unapologetic, morally bankrupt sociopaths. The Republicans would of course argue otherwise with a straight face, but you'd expect a sociopath to, wouldn't you?
With that in mind, let's examine the response by the aforementioned Paul Ryan to a tough question during a CNN town meeting on Tuesday. Ryan as you probably know took time in between reps deadlifting copies of The Fountainhead to pen an op-ed back at the beginning of June stating his sudden support for presumptive GOP nominee and colostomy bag filled with asparagus piss Donald Trump. What was noteworthy about this statement of intent was that it represented an about-face from a guy who up to that point had shunned Trump. Ryan was one of many who had either remained deafeningly silent on Trump or who had publicly called him out for being a con man self-evidently unfit for public office who then miraculously had a Saul-on-the-Road-To-Damascus moment, merely because Trump had won, so, fuck it I guess. While many on the outside couldn't help but notice how spineless and ethically flexible it made the Republicans look, they for the most part didn't seem to care.
That's why it was so much fun when a Republican student at this CNN town hall, a minor hero named Zachary Marcone, cornered Ryan and said to him flat-out, "It concerns me when the Republican leadership is supporting somebody who’s blatantly racist and has said Islamophobic statements.” He continued with a question: "How can you morally justify your support for this kind of candidate, somebody who could be very destructive?” It was the definition of tough-but-fair, because Marcone was right: Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans who've recently chosen to fall at the tiny orange toes of Trump should be made to account for that decision by the few decent people left within the party. And account Paul Ryan did. Although seemingly taken aback by the question, his answer was swift and unequivocal -- and it said every single goddamn thing you need to know about today's Republicans and the moral syphilis that's eaten big, gaping holes in their souls.
"That basically means you’re going to help elect Hillary Clinton,” Ryan shot back.
It's really kind of striking that somewhere along the line the Republicans became this bad at politics. For decades, the GOP at least played the game: its leaders denied malfeasance and pretended that every questionable action at least had a legitimate thought process behind it -- something more than, "Because we're obviously a bunch of assholes who crave power more than doing what's right for the country." But that was then and this is now. Paul Ryan just came right out and said, in so many words, that above statement. He admits there's no honest reason for supporting a monster like Trump -- and he can't even find the words to defend Trump, because that would involve praising him -- other than the fact that he's running against Clinton and she's the ace of hearts within their card deck-slash-hit list and has been for a quarter century.
Never mind that Trump is a thin-skinned, narcissistic bully who lies pathologically and who couldn't, even for a moment, curb his racism, misogyny and xenophobia if you promised him you'd emblazon his name in gold neon across the moon. Never mind that a Trump presidency would destabilize not only the country but the world and would very likely permanently damage the United States by ruining its standing on the global stage. Never mind that the rise of Trump within the Republican party is an unqualified embarrassment that, if not repudiated by the GOP establishment, represents an extinction level event for it. All Ryan cares about is Republicans returning to their rightful place within the White House -- where they can fuck things up all over again, as they've done most times they've had the opportunity in recent history. All he cares about is defeating Hillary Clinton. Partisan power. The good of the party. That's all that matters. The Republicans controlling the executive branch is a self-reinforcing good for Ryan.
Sure, Ryan is still trying to make the argument that Donald Trump would be the ticket to the Republican agenda writ large. But everything we've seen from Trump over the past year indicates that such thinking is folly, since Trump has proven again and again that he can't be controlled. Hell, Trump doesn't even genuinely want the White House. He couldn't give less of a damn about being president to the point where every few hours seems to bring a new statement, proposal, or offensive Twitter rant that feels specifically engineered to derail his entire campaign. Trump either doesn't want to win or his narcissism has combined with some kind of early onset dementia to create a perfect storm of apparent breathtaking incompetence. But Ryan doesn't care about any of that. All he cares about is winning, the country and its future be damned. Because he's a spineless, morally bankrupt little turd who's trying to appear serious and dignified as Trump gleefully rides his party down into its armageddon like Major Kong atop the atomic bomb at the end of Dr. Strangelove.
What's most surprising, again, though, is that Ryan admits this publicly. He has no good reason for supporting Trump, a candidate whose deficiencies are nowhere near within normal political parameters, other than the fact that he's nominally a Republican and he's running against Hillary Clinton. They really did used to be so good at this politics thing. Now? Well, Paul Ryan just spelled it out for us.