Last week I had lunch with a friend who, like me, has been involved with Republican politics in Maine sporadically over the last 25 years. Like me, he’s a basically a RINO (Republican in Name Only) which used to be called a moderate. When we got to discussing the 2024 election, he looked sad but resigned. Our conversation had been cheerful and upbeat until then, when we both glumly looked at our plates. Right now, Trump looks like the presumptive nominee.

To be a Republican in America today, you have to hold two contradictory thoughts in your head — in many cases, without reconciling them. First, unless something dramatic changes in the next eight months, we’ll win back both houses of Congress. But then second, two years later, the party is likely to likely to be saddled by Trump again. After all, the Republican National Committee is now picking up the tab for most of the ultra high net worth individual’s legal bills — which one imagines is more than a simple courtesy.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel officially censured two Republican members of Congress for participating in the investigation of events on Jan. 6 last year. The real crime Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have committed is challenging the doublethink that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and that the Capitol riot was no big deal. Both credos defy logic, but nonetheless subscribing to them is required for passage on the Trump train.

Politics in America started its decent to pure reductionism a long time ago. First there was the negative ad followed by a culture of investigations that fed off themselves from McCarthy to Watergate and beyond. This all devolved further though in 2016 in when Democrats were told they had to swallow the idea of Hillary, whom they’d coughed up in 2008.

To a more extreme degree, though, many Republicans put up or shut up when it came to a President Trump. He enjoyed the support of 88% of the party. Then, in 2020, Joe Biden, who had run an anemic primary campaign that kept losing whatever momentum gravity kept lending, became the “well he’s better than Trump” option. One needn’t wonder why his presidency is a disappointment.

We are the ones who allow ourselves to be stuck with these dismal choices, again and again and again. No one on the political spectrum is offering any good ideas on how to break this cycle, so I’ve turned to rapper and fashion plate RiFF RAFF for solace and perhaps hope. He does not disappoint.

“When I buy a car, I rip off the rearview mirror because I don’t like to look back,” RiFF RAFF once proclaimed.

What an excellent approach! Consider all of this huff and puff about the past, a stolen election and then Mike Pence not being loyal. Then ask: who needs it? Trump’s grievances are very much his own, and invariably about the past. They do not truly overlap with those of people who actually have been screwed, though somehow he attracts people with more serious grievances anyway. They’re fueled not by the reality that Trump is fighting for them, but the hope that he might.

Then there is this gem:

“My biggest dream, I can’t remember it’s so big, I can’t remember it. I was in a pool of Spaghetti-O’s and I was swimming in it. And a meatball got lodged in the back of my osophagus [sic] and then I woke up.”

You don’t have to be Freud to figure out what’s going on here. The Spaghetti-O’s represent both opportunity and challenge (imagine swimming in that!) while the meatball is the false goal, the thing that smells so good but then can kill you. Trump’s stage presence, curious magnetism and common disdain for a system that is not always fair are the Spaghetti-O’s, while the reality of what he delivers is the meatball. It is seemingly good — like a strong economy, standing up to China, and smashing pieties — but ultimately fatal (undermining two Republican senators in Georgia and somehow inspiring a mob to want to lynch his vice president).

Finally, there is the powerful logic of RiFF RAFF’s latest hit, “I drank a gallon of SiROC (a grape-based vodka).” What extraordinary circumstances drove this young man to do that? In the song, a bunch of good things happen after that, involving ladies and fast cars and lots of “balling.” But in reality, if you drank a gallon of SiROC, that wouldn’t happen, would it?  You’re just chasing a dream.

I’ve had enough of the pundits, the experts, and illuminati on cable panels. They don’t answer the big question for me or stand up to prevailing “wisdom” the way RiFF RAFF does. Disaffected Republicans, if you’re struggling to reconcile what’s going on, just ask RiFF RAFF. If Trump is the nominee in 2024, he’ll probably become required reading.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.