Once upon a time, there was a man named Vidkun Quisling. Unlike most of his fellow Norwegians in 1940, he convinced himself that the Nazis who had conquered his country weren’t really so bad. His collaborationist regime was so successful that his surname soon became a synonym for infamy.
Winston Churchill said it best in June ’41: “A vile race of quislings — to use a new word which will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries — is hired to fawn upon the [Nazi] conquerer, to collaborate in his designs … while groveling themselves.”
Those historical factoids came to mind this weekend, when I read the first sentence of George Will’s latest missive. The veteran conservative columnist wrote this about Der Leader: “Donald Trump’s damage to the Republican Party, although already extensive, has barely begun. Republican quislings will multiply, slinking into support of the most anti-conservative presidential aspirant in their party’s history.”
Yup, we do indeed have a growing list of Republican quislings, craven characters willing to sell their souls to an authoritarian demagogue who looms as the greatest threat to this democracy since Joe McCarthy. If Trump wins the Indiana primary tomorrow, we might see a stampede. But if he wins the nomination and loses in November, let us remember those who abetted him. At minimum, George Will says, “These collaborationists will render themselves ineligible to participate in the party’s reconstruction.”
The expanding quisling bandwagon includes Chris Christie, Senator Jeff Sessions, ex-Senator Scott Brown, Maine Gov. Paul DePage, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, ex-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (even though, last year, he denounced Trump as “a cancer”), half-term gubernatorial cartoon Sarah Palin, and at least 11 House Republicans – including Pennsylvanians Lou Barletta (Trump is “who the people want”), Bill Shuster (Trump “knows what it takes to get things done”), and Tom Marino (under Trump, “America will win again”).
And now we have new quislings. There’s Marco “Little Marco” Rubio, who’s actually just a quisling-in-training (he says that Trump’s “performance has improved significantly”). There’s Republican establishment bigwig Ron Kaufman (he insists that Trump is a lot like Ronald Reagan, who was also mocked as unqualified; thing is, Ron seems to have forgotten that Reagan had previously logged eight years as governor of America’s largest state).
But best of all — worst, actually — we have Jon Huntsman.
You may remember Huntsman, the former Utah governor who was briefly a voice of moderate sanity in the 2012 GOP race. He was way too sane to get traction with the Republican primary voters, but now he has apparently come to believe that his comeback road to relevance requires him to grovel and collaborate. As tweeting Der Leader might say, “Sad!”
The other day, Huntsman said (or willed himself to say): “We’ve had enough intraparty fighting. Now’s the time to stitch together a winning coalition. And it’s been clear almost from the beginning that Donald Trump has the ability to assemble a nontraditional bloc of supporters … The ability to cut across traditional party boundaries — like ’80, ’92, and 2008 — will be key, and Trump is much better positioned to achieve that.”
Wow. In one fell swoop, he compared Trump to Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. For that alone, Huntsman was ridiculed this weekend by the conservatives at RedState.com: “Donald Trump could not put together a two-car funeral , much less a wide ranging coalition that could actually win the election.”
And if it also seems remarkable that a former ambassador to China, a guy who prides himself on his international smarts, would hail a real estate huckster who’s fact free on foreign policy, let us never underestimate the willingness of quislings to sell themselves cheap. And this is how cheap:
It’s well known that Trump has long thirsted for a trade war with China (Trump yesterday: “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country”) — yet Huntsman is reputedly opposed to trade wars. Or he was, before he became a quisling. During a GOP debate in October 2011 he said, “I don’t subscribe to the Donald Trump school … of international trade,” because erecting trade barriers “disadvantages our small businesses, it disadvantages our exporters, it disadvantages our agricultural producers … at the end of the day, we’ve got to find more market-opening measures.”
Huntsman has also apparently made peace with Trump’s hostility toward immigrants. During a September ’11 debate Huntsman pleaded for tolerance — “I hope that all of us…will always see this as an issue that revolves around real human beings” — but hey, that was so five years ago. Huntsman has also apparently parked his principles about the reality of manmade climate change; five years ago he said that “in order for the Republican party to win, we can’t run from science,” but today — presto — he’s on the quisling bandwagon with a junk science believer.
Ever since last summer, most Republicans have marinated in their cowardice, refusing to confront the metastasizing disease that now threatens to consume them (and, potentially, us). The next step toward home-grown tyranny – the quisling phase – has already begun, and we can only hope that enough Republicans and conservatives will hew to their best instincts and follow George Will’s advice: “to help him lose 50 states.”
I recommend that you read these confessions of a tabloid reporter who abetted Trump’s rise in New York – despite his habit of lying to her over and over. Her analysis of Trump’s current popularity is a spot-on indictment of our pathetic popular culture:
Trump has found his most appreciative audience not among the East Coast elite, who have always looked down on him, but with the sort of people who think “The Bachelor” is about romance. (I can’t believe they broke up! They were so much in love!) Trump supporters enjoy his campaign trail reality show because they’re familiar with the posturing and the parlance. They don’t care if it’s one long list of scripted falsehoods—it’s satisfying entertainment, like sitting at home in front of a screen, but with the prospect of the star getting his hands on nuclear weapons.