Trump supporters
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

It is clear by now that Donald Trump is a menace not only to the country, but to the Republican Party. His disinterest in policy, disregard for the legal and normative rules that govern the country, and disdain for anything that doesn’t momentarily slake the thirst of his unquenchable ego are driving his presidency to ruin.

Assuming Trump is personally uninvolved in in the conspiracy with Russia–and he seems far too unable to keep a secret or focus his attention long enough to pull off such a thing as its mastermind–he could have weathered the storm. He could have found out which of his advisers were involved and cut them loose (unless his own family is truly implicated), and the conservative establishment would have circled the wagons to contain the damage to Flynn, Manafort, Page and whoever else was responsible.

But, of course, that’s not what happened. By firing Comey, publicly admitting to obstruction of justice and laughing about it with the very same Russians that his campaign allegedly colluded with, Trump has all but ensured his own eventual destruction. The damaging hits will keep on coming, and Trump’s paranoia will lead him to ever more damaging behavior as the noose tightens around him.

A normal political party would throw Trump to the wolves and replace him. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this as the GOP attempts to protect Pence from the fallout. Most Republicans in leadership would have preferred President Pence from the beginning, anyway. But the Republican Party cannot do that, largely because Fox News is preventing them from doing it.

Trump’s approval rating is at its lowest point, but remains remarkably high under the circumstances at 38 percent. His perception among Republicans is finally starting to slip a little, but even so only 23 percent of Republicans disapprove of the job Trump is doing.

That is largely because of conservative media, including and especially Fox News, which shields its viewers from negative information about Trump–and when it must provide the basic facts that are the obsession of the rest of the country, it does so by slanting those facts as “liberal media” persecution.

While every other news network is talking about Trump, Russia and obstruction of justice, Fox News will find almost anything else to discuss: its primetime slot with Tucker Carlson has been devoted to the Clinton Foundation, food, tornadoes and the evil liberal media.

That puts the Republican Party in an impossible position. It cannot live with Trump, and it cannot live without him. If Republicans throw over Trump, the most rabid and engaged part of their base will turn on them in hatred and disgust, because those people haven’t been living in the same country, consuming the same information that all the rest of us have. To them, Trump is still a hero who can easily survive and conquer the assaults of the irrelevant legacy media and the safe space liberals. They don’t see how bad things have gotten, and in many cases actively ignore all real news in order to avoid bursting their own bubble.

If the Republican Party doesn’t hold Trump accountable by forcing his resignation or impeaching him, 2018 will likely be a bloodbath. More than that, the reputation of the Republican Party will be stained with Trump for decades to come. Never again will the GOP have even the pretense of high ground on issues of national security, foreign entanglements and personal morality. But if the GOP throws over Trump, 2018 will also be a bloodbath as core Republican base voters stay home, and in many cases Trumpist conservatives primary sitting Republicans and attempt to reassert the alt-right’s takeover of the party.

Fox News and the late Roger Ailes deserve the blame for this situation. Trumpism itself is the direct result of the paranoid fever dream they sold to fearful older white conservatives, and they continue to trap the GOP in a padded room with the crazy man in the Oval Office.

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Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.