“From a personal standpoint, I think this president fucking sucks. He’s not even a Republican,” one Republican consultant told me, reflecting on the G.O.P.’s incipient existential crisis in the age of Donald Trump. For the first time, Washington’s Republican swamp creatures are confronted with a monster that is not of their own making: a president who is a reflexive tribalist but an unreliable conservative. It’s not exactly a crisis of conscience, at least not yet, but it’s not lost on the G.O.P. consultant class so despised by Trump that they’re doing as much as any of his most fervid supporters to prop up his flagging political standing.
Of all the aggrieved elites disoriented by Trump, none face a trickier calculation than the dark artists of the right, whose conspiratorial powers have always been oversold. Trump wouldn’t be president today if political operatives had a scintilla of the pull imagined by the commander-in-chief. It is true, however, that they don’t like the president all that much. They’re worried about his tweeting; his tone; his behavior; his character (or lack thereof)—ill will reinforced by his widely condemned response to an uprising of white supremacists and anti-Semites in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one counter-demonstrator dead. They fret about Trump’s long-term impact on the Republican Party, on the country, and what his rise means for America’s international standing as the leader of the free world. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them lower.
Yet in meeting after meeting, Republican consultants have had one consistent message for clients and prospective…
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