The Rise of the Sudden Trump Groupies

By Heather Wilhelm Published on March 4, 2016

If there’s one lesson America should learn from this never-ending, thrill-a-minute, laugh-a-minute, sob-a-minute 2016 primary season, it’s this: Never go full Chris Christie.

Poor Chris Christie. The increasingly unpopular New Jersey governor, with approval ratings now hovering around 27 percent, just wrapped up a complete dud of a presidential run. That charming Christie razzle-dazzle just didn’t sell, likely because it never existed in the first place. So our scrappy man from Jersey, his Oval Office dreams thwarted, decided to do what any craven, desperate politician would do: hitch his wagon to the Trump Train.

Since the fateful day of his Trump endorsement, Christie’s life has morphed into a carnival of embarrassments. After introducing Trump at an Arkansas rally last weekend, Christie, clearly expecting to revel in The Donald’s glory, promptly got the opposite. In fact, Trump couldn’t get Old Jersey off that stage fast enough. “Get on the plane and go home,” he barked at Christie, microphone still on, deftly avoiding what might have been a sad attempt at a hug. “It’s over there. Go home.”

On an awkwardness scale of one to 10, the moment easily scored a 12. The general impression was that of a man on a fancy golf course delicately attempting to shoo away an overly friendly, slightly dirty and unrealistically hopeful stray dog sporting a number of suspicious-looking boils on his leg.

On Super Tuesday, after seven states went to Trump, the nation witnessed yet another mortifying Chris Christie spectacle, in which the governor stood behind his new boss-man through a half-hour press conference, eyes vacant, mouth slack, the fragments of his soul slowly withering like a proverbial raisin in the sun. Christie’s pained facial expressions quickly became the stuff of Internet legend; various pundits joked that he was likely being held hostage.

Unless there’s something we don’t know, however, our needy friend Christie was up there of his own free will; he even managed a vaguely confused, half-mast smile when Trump made fun of New Jersey. As Trump’s delegate numbers pile up, we’ll likely see that Christie’s not alone. In other words, America’s suck-up parade of perceived political convenience will continue to grow.

There’s Jeff Sessions, who became the first sitting senator to endorse Trump this week. There’s supposed conservative stalwart Newt Gingrich, who, while watching the Christie/Trump tragicomedy, literally tweeted out the following: “Governor Christie introducing and standing with Trump gave the event a sense of seriousness and professionalism.”

Next, Gingrich praised Trump’s calls for “inclusiveness, team effort, and unity” after watching a speech in which “Mr. Trump,” as he is often called by his flunkies, literally said the following: “Paul Ryan, I don’t know him well, but I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him. And if I don’t, he’s going to have to pay a big price.” Newt, is it maybe you who’s being held hostage? Or were you just watching an entirely different press conference beamed in from Planet Voltron?

Here’s the great thing about Donald Trump: No matter what you think of him, he’ll make quick work of exposing the various frauds, toadies and compass-free political operatives in our midst — and then, intentionally or not, he’ll embarrass them in hilarious and painful ways. Here’s another great thing about Trump: He exposes those whose long, entrenched careers in Washington make them confuse the means (a Republican party that may already be broken or defunct) with the ends (desirable political outcomes and the preservation of a constitutional republic). Yes, Newt Gingrich, I might be talking about you.

Trump’s rise is often credited to a national desire “to burn down the Republican establishment,” so it would be quite rich — and quite appropriate — to see a weak-kneed “establishment” embrace him. Witness John McCain insisting he’ll support Trump if he wins the nomination, citing party loyalty, even though Trump would happily make mincemeat of both McCain’s party and his political career in a D.C. minute.

Very well, carry on, Washington, D.C.! Keep on doing the things that make everyone want to “burn it down.” If Donald Trump is ultimately embraced and co-opted by “the establishment” — together with his new groupies — it would serve as one of the more delicious ironies in a campaign bursting with them. Given the growing evidence that many Trump supporters are actually disillusioned Democrats, the sudden GOP Trump groupies would also serve as an epic example of raw political incompetence.

It also leads back to the inevitable question, the one that supposedly fueled Trump in the first place: What good is the Republican Party, and what is it even for? At this point, no one seems to have a good answer.


Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin,Texas. Her work can be found at and her Twitter handle is @heatherwilhelm.

This article originally appeared at RealClearPolitics on February 11, 2016, and is reprinted with permission.

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