President Donald Trump
Credit: White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Of all the Never Trump groups that have organized to defeat the president, the one that has impressed me the most is Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT). They’ve asked lifelong Republicans to videotape themselves explaining why they refuse to support Trump.

Because I know quite a few conservatives, I’m aware that many of them are uncomfortable with this president—even though they won’t admit it openly. Hearing from Republicans about their refusal to support Trump can provide a permission structure that allows them to confront their partisan tribalism and begin to surface their distaste for having a narcissistic bully in the White House.

But the latest video from RVAT goes a step further and brings us a voice from inside the Trump administration about what’s really going on behind the scenes. It is as terrifying as we’ve all imagined.

The former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security says that the president wanted to exploit DHS “for his own political purposes and to fuel his own agenda.”  For example, in the middle of the wildfires in California, Trump told FEMA to cut off funding for assistance to that state because the people who lived there didn’t support him. That lends credence to the story from Katherine Eban that Trump and Kushner were content to allow tens of thousands of Americans to die from COVID-19 as long as they were from Democratic states and counties.

But here’s the really terrifying part of that video: the president didn’t want to hear that his directives were illegal, saying he had “magical authorities.” What the hell does that mean?

On the same day that this video was released, an op-ed by Miles Taylor was published at the Washington Post in which he states:

Like many Americans, I had hoped that Donald Trump, once in office, would soberly accept the burdens of the presidency — foremost among them the duty to keep America safe. But he did not rise to the challenge. Instead, the president has governed by whim, political calculation and self-interest.

Frankly, there were other people in the room when Trump claimed “magical authorities” to break the law (I’m looking at you Kirstjen Nielsen). They now need to step up to the plate for their country to back up what Taylor is saying … That’s because the stakes are so high. At the end of the video above, Taylor says that people who are still serving in this administration have told him, “Just wait until the second term. It’ll be no holds barred, it’ll be shock and awe, we’ll do what we want.”

Taylor ends by saying that, despite having policy differences with Joe Biden, he will vote for the Democratic ticket in November. That’s because he understands the difference between what Adam Gopnik called “toxic enemies and honest opponents.”

What’s needed against Trump now is…not an ideologically narrow, politically focussed opposition but the widest possible coalition of people who genuinely value the tenets of democracy, meaning no more than the passionate desire to settle differences by debate and argument, rather than by power and cruelty and clan.

I’d say that, given their latest ad, the Lincoln Project knows the difference too. Above and beyond policy differences, it all comes down to character.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.