If, in 2014, you had told the average Republican they'd endorse what their party was doing from 2016 to 2020, they'd have been appalled. More than appalled -- they'd accuse you of suffering from a sort of derangement syndrome, of viewing the opposing party in such an implausibly demonic light that it rendered you unable to ascribe even a modicum of decency or principle to one's ideological opponents. From nominating a birther for president to the Muslim ban to trying to nullify legally cast ballots, the story of the past four years has been Republicans acceding to racist authoritarianism in cases where -- had it been pitched as a hypothetical prediction -- they'd have sworn up and down "of course we'd never do that!"
What is going on? The answer is straightforward, and it really does trace back to Donald Trump. Once Trump and his campaign endorses one of these illiberal and extreme actions, two things happen for Republicans deciding whether to endorse or oppose them:
- They're put in a position where opposing the action means standing up to Trump;
- They're on notice that some significant sector of political elite actors will endorse the decision -- it is no longer the province of the fringe or kooks.