Retiring Sen. Bob Corker has been one of the most vocal Republican critics of Donald Trump, and by that, I mean that his face droops whenever he talks about norms and yet he still voted with Trump’s position over four out of fives times during their two overlapping years in office—including for the disastrous tax law and multiple attempts to repeal Obamacare.
Now, with just two weeks left in his tenure, Corker finds himself free to pop off about Trump and the state of the GOP. On Sunday night, he chose to instead rehash a bunch of dumb lies that Republicans tell themselves in an interview with MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt.
“I want to get away from here and think about [what the Republican Party is],” Corker told Hunt. “What is happening right now is not the standard Republicanism that we’ve had in our country for many, many years and it’s very different.
“I think it’s important to remind people that we’re going through an anomaly right now as it relates to much of the standard Republican focus that’s been around for a long time,” he added.
All of this was in the context of a potential primary run against Trump, which Corker didn’t exactly rule out. So it’s worth asking: What, exactly, has been the “standard Republican focus” for the last several decades if not white supremacy and an unfettered desire to slash taxes for corporations and the rich while destroying the safety net? The only differences between Trump and what has been the Republican playbook since at least 1994 are that he says the quiet parts loud and he hasn’t started his first war yet.
The part of the interview that shocked some, however, is that Corker declined to say whether or not a Democratic president would be better than a second Trump term.
“I don’t think the Democrats yet are capable of electing a centrist,” Corker said. “I think for someone, uh, someone like that might be appealing, but—I don’t know, I don’t want to speak to that yet, let’s see what happens a year from now.”
The Democrats did run a centrist—in 2016. She lost! During the midterms, Corker got in hot water with other Republicans because he praised Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen, a centrist who was running to succeed Corker in the Senate. Bredesen lost to Republican Marsha Blackburn by double digits.
The truth is that no Democratic nominee short of Jim Webb will ever be “centrist” enough for people like Corker. What they want is for the Democratic Party to become the “moderate” wing of the GOP. Put more simply, they want a Democratic Party full of Joe Manchins. And the fact that Corker even remotely thinks this could be a winning strategy shows exactly why Trump keeps walking all over the GOP: He understands their game exponentially better than they do.
Correction, 10:51 a.m. ET: A previous version of this story said that Bredesen lost to Martha McSally in this year’s Tennessee Senate race. Bredesen lost to Marsha Blackburn; McSally, a Senate candidate in Arizona, lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.