For the Republican Party, an electoral apocalypse may be headed its way on Election Day.
Like the day of reckoning described in the Bible, four proverbial horsemen are steering the GOP toward potential doom. But instead of pestilence, war, famine and death, the Republican apocalypse drivers are made up of presidential nominee Donald Trump and his three principal surrogates: Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani.
Together, these four horsemen are peddling self-serving, dystopian rhetoric that alienates as many moderate and independent voters as it attracts, if not more. Whereas Ronald Reagan spoke of optimism, hope and possibility, Mr. Trump's surrogates promote fear, anger, misogyny and "us versus them" politics — often within their own party.
Their statements have put the GOP in jeopardy of losing control of the U.S. Senate. And roughly 160 GOP luminaries — including at least 16 senators, four past presidential nominees, both living former Republican presidents, multiple consultants, and opinion makers like former Secretary of State Colin Powell — have publicly rebelled against Mr. Trump and the version of the GOP he and his has-been henchmen endorse.
Messrs. Christie, Gingrich and Giuliani are sad shades of what they were at the zenith of their political careers. They now look to resurrect their fortunes by bucking the establishment, going all in with Donald Trump in the hopes of being rewarded with influential positions in his administration.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was once a rare figure on the political landscape: a conservative Republican triumphing in a left-leaning northeastern state. Overwhelmingly re-elected, Governor Christie's approval ratings once topped 70 percent. But budget problems and the infamous Bridgegate scandal broke his momentum, and his approval ratings plummeted to 21 percent.
He was the first of Donald Trump's vanquished primary foes to offer fealty to the GOP nominee, despite substantive differences on important issues such as immigration. And he now shills for Mr. Trump with obeisance, even as the ongoing Bridgegate trial yields embarrassing testimony for the governor, including allegations of abusive behavior toward a female staffer.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich secured the first GOP majority in the House of Representatives in 40 years. But ethical problems and an attempted coup in the GOP caucus shortened his speakership. He was an early backer of Mr. Trump.
The former speaker doubled down on Mr. Trump's dangerous anti-Muslim rhetoric, offering an offensive plan to test and possibly deport Muslims — including American citizens. He described an unremarkable speech Mr. Trump delivered in Gettysburg as, "maybe the best reform speech since Reagan in 1980." He then testily accused Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly of being "obsessed with sex" because she had the temerity to inquire about allegations that Mr. Trump has sexually assaulted women — the irony of a three-time married male politician with a history of indiscretions with women making such a statement is obvious.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was one of my political heroes even before 9/11 occurred. Through steely leadership, moderation on social issues atypical for a Republican and creative crime control policies, he led America's greatest city into a renaissance period. But his senatorial and presidential aspirations were never realized, and he became yet another voice in the cable news din.
He enthusiastically signed onto his friend and fellow New Yorker's campaign and has since become one of Mr. Trump most devoted and prickly champions. He called Hillary Clinton "stupid" in a national interview, later claiming Mr. Trump would be a better president "than a woman." He claimed Ms. Clinton had a disqualifying illness, but offered no corroborating proof. And he routinely heaps hyperbolic praise on Mr. Trump's speeches, calling an address Mr. Trump delivered in Milwaukee the "best" Republican speech ever.
Sure, surrogates can always be expected to advocate aggressively for their chosen candidates; Bill Clinton does (often causing his wife's campaign headaches as a result). But Mr. Trump's three primary defenders have achieved a degree of sycophantic excess heretofore unseen in modern politics.
If Mr. Trump wins, perhaps their gamble will pay off — assuming they can trust him to make good on his debts. But if he loses, we can only hope a resurgent Republican establishment emerges to force all four horsemen to ride off into the sunset.
Richard J. Cross III is a former Capitol Hill and Annapolis press secretary and political speechwriter. His e-mail address is email@example.com.