I owe Kentucky an apology and should have made it before now.
You may remember me as a “conservative” political columnist and commentator in various commonwealth media. In that capacity I, with a few notable exceptions, generally praised and supported Republican positions and politicians.
In 2016 I broke with the GOP and Republican politicians over Donald Trump.
When Trump appeared on the political scene, I did not take him seriously and expected Republicans to repudiate him quickly and emphatically. He was then, and is even more so now, the antithesis of actual, principled conservatism.
To my dismay, Republicans who had loudly thumped the Bible and William J. Bennett’s The Book of Virtues either openly embraced, tacitly collaborated with, or timidly tolerated Trump, a moral obscenity of a man who personified virtually every vice and normalized vulgarity from “grab ’em by the p—y,” to liability for sexual assault, to business fraud, and much more.
Republicans who had professed love of freedom and abhorrence of authoritarianism and tyranny nominated Trump, an unprincipled demagogue who colluded with and openly sought and accepted help from Russia and its strongman Vladimir Putin. Trump played footsy with dictators he obviously admired while undermining America’s key alliances with democratic friends.
Republicans who had championed free trade turned out to be fine with Trump’s tariffs and protectionism. Republicans who talked about fiscal responsibility abetted Trump’s irresponsible tax cuts and deficits.
Republicans who claimed to value competence stayed mum as Trump showed shocking ignorance and incompetence on myriad subjects, including foremost a global pandemic that was killing and incapacitating millions.
Republicans who had pretended to judge people on the content of their characters stayed mute as the hateful and hate-filled Trump routinely practiced cruelty, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia with sickening relish.
Republicans who said they were a party of ideas that respected facts were revealed as a party obsessed with power for its own sake and tolerated Trump’s incessant, psychopathic lies, including most egregiously his serially adjudicated and rejected Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election.
Republicans who had preached respect for the American institutions, the Constitution, the police, and the rule of law rationalized Trump’s incitement of a violent insurrection and mob attack on the Capitol, Congress, and police officers in an attempted coup intended to prevent the constitutional transfer of power. They still stand by him even as he recently suggested execution of the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and proposed extra-judicial killings of shoplifters.
Republicans who once championed American national security have stood by Trump even as he took and recklessly kept classified and top-secret national security documents.
The list of Trump horrors is literally endless. Yet, incredibly, Republicans now stand ready to nominate him for president again, even as he is credibly charged with a catalogue of shocking felonies in multiple jurisdictions. Any one such charge would have been fatal to any presidential candidate in American history until the GOP joined the Trump cult.
As former Republican operative Stuart Stevens has said about the post-Trump GOP having forsaken its previously professed principles, “It was all a lie.”
To stand with or silently tolerate Trump and Trumpism is to effectively support his bigotry, criminality, demagoguery, despotism, hate, hypocrisy, ignorance, indecency, insurrection, irrationality, lying, narcissism, proto-fascism, sacrilege, sedition, venality, violence, and vulgarity.
There are plenty of Trumpist true believers, but most elected Republicans, including in Kentucky, know Trump and Trumpism are dangerous for America and morally indefensible. But to one degree or another they go along with them anyway for the sake of personal or partisan power and position. “Vichy Republicans,” some have called them, and the damning appellation is appropriate.
Has any elected or otherwise prominent Kentucky Republican openly, clearly, and strongly repudiated Trump? Only a few have done so nationally, most notably Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney, both of whom are now outcasts for being honest and patriotic.
The Republican nominee for Kentucky’s governorship boasts of Trump’s endorsement, which is one no decent person should seek or accept. That nominee, the state attorney general, swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, but he embraces Trump, who has called for suspending the Constitution.
The U.S. Senate’s Republican Leader, whom a close confidant once described as “the principal enabler of the Trump agenda,” has not retracted his public position that he will “absolutely” support Trump if he is the 2024 GOP presidential nominee.
Trump is not merely dangerous; he is evil. This is not something I say lightly, but it must be said. It remains difficult to understand and accept that so many Republicans support, even worship, this bad man, but they do, and they will no matter what.
The Party of Lincoln (not to mention Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan) is now thoroughly and irredeemably the Party of Trump. American constitutional democracy is at great risk as a result.
By my past public support of the Republican Party and its craven Trump collaborators I to some degree helped it happen. For that, Kentucky, I apologize.
John David Dyche is a London native and Louisville attorney. He authored “Republican Leader,” a 2009 political biography of Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell; wrote political columns for the Courier-Journal, other Kentucky newspapers, and WDRB; and did political commentary on Kentucky Educational Television. This commentary first appeared at The Kentucky Lantern.