You knew. You all knew. You knew the whole time who and what Donald Trump is.
You heard every terrible thing he said. You watched every inexcusable thing he did. You knew Trump is a race-baiting, xenophobic, misogynistic, authoritarian con man. You knew about his insatiable appetite for power, his bottomless need for affirmation, his dangerous impulsiveness and uncontrollable temper. You knew he was a huckster who ruined businesses and lives. You knew he debased your party, and you personally. You knew.
You knew he waged a racist campaign against the president’s legitimacy. You knew he called immigrants rapists. You knew he advocated forbidding Muslims from American soil. You knew he said a federal judge wasn’t qualified because Mexican blood flowed through his veins. You knew he besmirched the parents of a dead soldier. You knew he mocked prisoners of war. You knew he courted white supremacists. You knew he admires dictators. You knew he incited violence. You knew he lies ― blatantly, shamelessly, ceaselessly.
You knew all of that, and you asked Americans to elect him president anyway. Shame on you. You knew.
Your condemnations are and have always been empty. Your sudden rush to abandon Trump ― after what’s merely the most recently uncovered manifestation of his hatred for women ― is motivated by the same venal cowardice that led you to support him in the first place.
You knew Hillary Clinton isn’t the monstrous caricature you spent decades depicting. You knew she is ― like each and every one of you ― an ordinary politician, in all the ways that word has positive and negative connotations. You knew she would govern in a perfectly normal way.
You knew this, but you told voters she was more dangerous than Trump. More evil. A greater threat to the republic. And this, after so many of you spent the presidential primary campaign warning the U.S. that Trump is exactly who he appears to be. But you fell in line. You knew, and you endorsed him anyway.
You did all of this in service of ideology. You did this because you believe Trump will enact the policies you favor to allow businesses to pump more pollution into our air and water, to take away food and medicine from the neediest among us, to disenfranchise minority voters, to slash taxes for the rich.
Your voters elevated Trump nearly to the White House, and he may yet make it there, in spite of everything. They did so because you have primed them for Trump for more than half a century. Half a century of barely concealed appeals to racism, of fomenting fear and hatred and coaxing the worst instincts out of enough voters to gain power. Years of nurturing ― on AM radio and cable TV and the internet ― a propaganda machine that encourages ignorance, mistrust and anger.
You have lost control of the golem you created.
You made promises you knew you couldn’t keep, and your voters finally lost faith in you. Now, they’re turning on you.
They follow a man who doesn’t even share your beliefs. You’re learning just how little those voters cared about conservatism and how very much they cared about stomping their boots on the throats of people who don’t look like them or love like them or think like them. You made this possible by making villains out of African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ people, the poor.
When this is all over, you may win your own re-elections. You may retain control of Congress and of governors mansions, state legislatures, county councils and school boards all across the nation. You may sigh in relief that you survived. You may even ― and not terribly long from now ― regain the presidency and resume carrying out your agenda. Your own careers may be successful.
But history will condemn you. History won’t forget your callowness. Because you knew.