As Donald Trump lays the groundwork for setting federal troops against the American population, Anne Applebaum asks: What causes people to abandon their principles in support of a corrupt regime? And how do they find their way back? Like the Vichy French in the 1940s or East Germans in 1945, high-ranking members of the Republican Party in 2020 America have chosen to accept an alien ideology that is in sharp conflict with their own values. By aiding and abetting President Trump even as his lies are repeatedly exposed, they’ve become complicit—and, with tear gas in the streets and more than 100,000 dead from the coronavirus, the price of collaboration has already turned out to be extraordinarily high.
For the cover of The Atlantic’s July/August issue, staff writer Anne Applebaum has written “History Will Judge Trump’s Enablers Harshly,” a forceful indictment of high-ranking Republicans such as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr, and Senator Lindsey Graham—who have abandoned their own ideals in favor of enabling Trump to repeatedly put his own interests above America’s. “First Trump’s enablers accepted lies about the inauguration; now they accept terrible tragedy and the loss of American leadership in the world. Worse could follow. Come November, will they tolerate—even abet—an assault on the electoral system: open efforts to prevent postal voting, to shut polling stations, to scare people away from voting?” Applebaum writes. “Each violation of our Constitution and our civic peace gets absorbed, rationalized, and accepted by people who once upon a time knew better.”