At least he's not Hillary Clinton.

Photographer: Kena Bentancur/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans See Trump as a Racist They Can Work With

Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. She was a White House correspondent for Time, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and an editor at the New Republic.
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Donald Trump is a deplorable racist. I’m supporting him.

This is not hyperbole. After all the hemming, the hawing, and the tugging of double chins, it's the consensus of the elders of the Republican Party, despite Trump’s inability to tamp down his prejudices and his propensity to sound like a drug lord threatening a judge about to break up a murderous cartel.  

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Of all the reactions to Trump's attack on Gonzalo Curiel, an Indiana-born federal judge who happens to be of Mexican heritage, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s was the clearest. On Tuesday, as Ryan attempted to steal a little attention for his poverty-fighting proposals, he was instead forced to account, again, for the antics of his party's standard-bearer. Trump's contention that Judge Curiel couldn’t be impartial by virtue of his ancestry was the “textbook definition of a racist,” Ryan said.

Well, then, is he withdrawing his support? No.

So Ryan abhors racism but is nonetheless able to tolerate a racist because, he explained, Trump is more likely to get on board with his programs than a President Hillary Clinton. That’s a new extreme in the end justifies the means.

The speaker is not alone. He is just a sad example. Whatever you thought of his ideas, you couldn’t deny that the self-proclaimed heir to Jack Kemp’s conservatism used to believe in something bigger than clawing for power at any cost.  

Ryan and others are operating under the delusion that given a little time, the sun will come out tomorrow with a combination of denial, and some magical thinking. 

The remedies are based on the belief that Trump isn't actually the person he seems to be: a fatally flawed human being, more interested in winning a civil suit than the presidency, with a temperament that befits, maybe, a self-satisfied casino mogul. Put the dark ink back in a childproof bottle, bleach the stain, and the party can get back to the business of reclaiming the White House.

The means range from playing down the problem after expressing concern to stage-management. Republican officials were thrilled when Trump deigned to read from a teleprompter at his victory speech at his New York country club on Tuesday, as if he were a toddler who had finally agreed to try spinach. Given Trump's disdain for blow-dried, talking-point pols and admiration for his own entertaining riffs, it’s not a permanent fix.  

One of the more respected Republican senators, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, couldn’t even bring himself to make an outright condemnation, because whatever Trump said or did, Clinton is worse.

“He no doubt missed an incredible opportunity to pivot," Corker said, as if a basketball move could turn Trump into a general election candidate. If he doesn’t stop his shenanigans, Corker is going to sound a buzzer in “a few weeks,” as if Trump were a bad boyfriend who could miraculously change from an impulsive, unreliable, angry, entitled, self-impressed, borderline racist to a wise, informed, steady, other-directed paragon of virtue. Although Corker is often mentioned as Trump’s vice president -- he was the first to praise the Donald's foreign policy speech -- I have some humble advice: Do not marry him no matter his promises to change. I’ve been there.

What all of these statements reveal, aside from how dire the Republican straits, is that Trump’s behavior, however "unacceptable," "indefensible" or "flat out wrong," is, well, acceptable. If he would just tone it down, his temperament would go from “inappropriate” to appropriate, with or without an apology.

Once Trump adapts to the teleprompter, the next step, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is for him to just “get back on script.”

To urge such a thing out loud is for Republicans themselves to go off-script. It’s supposed to be a secret that they don’t say what they believe, or say one thing to one group and another to another. That's fairly easy to pull off in these days of fractured media informing the converted and of congressional districts so carefully sculpted that candidates can be for just about anything a majority of their hand-picked constituents are for and no one’s the wiser. It was only when Representative Todd Akin went from a backbench House member to Senate candidate that he was exposed for claiming that women are endowed with some inner mechanism that prevents pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."

The flaw in McConnell's plan is that even if Trump were willing to stop defying the rule of law to save his imaginary university from fraud charges, he still needs to blow the dog whistle to keep his followers on board: the birthers, the wall builders, the Muslim-blockers, the deportation enthusiasts, the militiamen, the no-regulation gun activists and white working men, with legitimate grievances about being left behind but who blame others. They believe Trump’s vague promises to stop the forces of globalization and robots arrayed against them. 

What remains of the Republican establishment is gathering this weekend at Mitt Romney’s annual summit in Deer Valley, Utah. It isn't a Stop Trump event but some see it as such. That's a steep climb, requiring rules changes that appear undemocratic and that could turn the anger that the party channeled to its own ends back on them. Among the attendees is a group of Republican national security sages who are said to be ready to sign a letter with dire warnings about a Trump presidency. 

Hmm. A stern letter from Dad to counter Trump?

Only Senators Mark Kirk and Lindsey Graham are in the “He’s a racist, I’m not endorsing him” camp. The collaborationists are in too deep, what with the date for nuptials set, the ballroom rented, the invitations sent. The groom just has to avoid being racist. Who cares that the marriage  isn’t for love, only convenience. At this point, the only chance of winning the White House is to go through with it. They’ll worry about President Trump tomorrow.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Margaret Carlson at mcarlson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net