Donald Trump does not and cannot act alone. Notwithstanding his serial dishonesty and raging narcissism and megalomania, the current inhabitant of the White House could never inflict the kind of damage he is currently inflicting on the nation and the planet without the assistance of powerful and willing enablers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – a man who is both clearly intelligent enough to know better and utterly lacking in moral fiber – is perhaps the most obvious abettor of Trumpism, but he is only one member of a large platoon that includes a sizable contingent from North Carolina. Far right true believers like Mark Meadows, Ted Budd, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson and Mark Walker, for example, are active and enthusiastic Trumpists, while others – notably Thom Tillis and Richard Burr – play the McConnell game of playing along.
And, of course, one need not be ensconced on Capitol Hill to be an effective Trump foot soldier. Here in Raleigh, an array of conservative politicos help plow the way for the naked emperor – be they fervent supporters like Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and the Rev. Franklin Graham or any number of mere passive enablers, both officeholders and think tankers – who privately shake their heads at Trump’s outrageous behavior and then do nothing publicly to resist him.
One somewhat surprising recent enlistee in the active and animated supporter camp is North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore. As you’ve probably heard by now, Moore – in a kind of political stunt that is right out of the Trump playbook – issued a full-throated endorsement of Trump’s agenda late last week when he purported to invite the president to come to Raleigh to deliver a State of the Union speech.
The bizarre “invitation,” of course, comes in response to the current government shutdown crisis that Trump has precipitated with his mad demand of a wall along the 1,200-plus mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Moore’s swan dive into the deep end of the Trump pool is not something that a lot of observers might have predicted. Throughout his many years in Raleigh, the Kings Mountain Republican has seldom been seen as a conservative ideologue and has regularly had to tamp down complaints from members of his GOP caucus who saw him as insufficiently committed to the hard right cause and much too willing to play the role of inside dealmaker. Moore’s recent decision to install former Republican lawmaker and budget expert Nelson Dollar (a moderate in the eyes of some conservatives) as a top aide is emblematic of what many on the right see as Moore’s objectionable penchant for compromise.
One thing that has changed in recent months and seems as if it could be at least one precipitant of last week’s stunt, however, is Moore’s own increasingly troubled status as the object of multiple legal investigations and complaints.
News reports indicate that the FBI contacted at least two different Republican legislators last year about allegations contained in an anonymous letter of complaint about Moore. Meanwhile, at least two private parties have filed complaints with state ethics officials about Moore’s involvement in the sale of a closed chicken plant in which he was an investor, and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has previously indicated that she was looking into work Moore did on behalf of the troubled and corruption-tainted bail bond industry.
Given this backdrop, Moore’s State of the Union stunt seems just as likely to be the classic act of a politician looking to change the subject when he feels the walls closing in as it does a genuine ideological conversion. Whichever the case, however, one thing is for sure: the damage that is resulting from Trump’s (and, by association, Moore’s) shutdown is growing worse by the day.
As Dr. Patrick McHugh of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center explained last Friday, even the Trump administration itself has been forced to admit that the economic damage inflicted by the shutdown is more than twice what it had initially claimed. As McHugh noted, “With the Federal Government partially incapacitated, key vertebra in America’s economic backbone are suddenly missing.”
Meanwhile the human toll of the shutdown continues to metastasize. Without income (or even the possibility of unemployment insurance) thousands of working North Carolinians are starting to confront the possibility of eviction, homelessness and even hunger. As the Budget and Tax Center’s Brian Kennedy pointed out over the weekend, “30 percent of all households, regardless of income, have less than $1,000 in savings.” It’s no wonder then that “middle-income, not just low-wage workers, are at risk of running through their savings and going into debt to weather the shutdown.”
In the days ahead, let’s hope fervently that Trump ends the shutdown crisis by backing off of his absurd border wall demand. When the time comes to toll the damage from this and other destructive Trump acts, however, North Carolinians would do well to remember just how many of their own politicians served as willing accomplices.