“We’ve engaged him for ourselves. … Within two months, we will have pushed [Hitler] so far into a corner that he’ll squeal.” – Franz von Papen
“He’s an asshole, but he’s our asshole.” – Duncan Hunter on Donald Trump
Why does the Republican Party continue to stand behind Trump when his approval rating is at 40 percent, he just bowed down to Putin, and it looks more and more like he is going to cost Republicans their control of the House of Representatives? Why did the Republicans allow him to run in their party’s primary in the first place, and why did they use their party mechanisms to support his candidacy in the general election?
In their book How Democracy Dies, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point out that demagogues often need the support of legitimate political parties and elites to legitimize them. Hitler was appointed chancellor by president Paul von Hindenburg. Hugo Chavez had charges (stemming from his attempted 1992 coup) dropped by then-president Rafael Caldera in 1994. Caldera didn’t think Chavez would ever win a presidential election and was sadly shocked when he did in 1999.
In 2012, the Republican Party candidates courted Donald Trump’s endorsement. Mitt Romney ultimately accepted it. Romney came out against Trump during the 2016 election.