Over the past two decades we have watched the Republican Party move further and further to the right. They have always been a right of center party on fiscal and defense issues, but over time they began to represent the most conservative opinions on social issues. By doing so they garnered the support of the religious right and the most conservative voting blocks. While I have most often disagreed with their positions on issues I have rarely found it appropriate to question their motives. They do, after all, represent groups that I have fundamental differences with, but we all have a right to our beliefs and opinions. Their recent attempts at voter suppression laws and questionable approach to immigration policy have given me pause over the past couple of years, but nothing has alarmed and saddened me more than their silence in the face of Trumpian behavior.
Trump has presented himself as an impulsive, self-serving and vindictive leader who has little patience for advice or information contrary to his preconceived notions. He has focused his wrath on the press, the courts, our allies and anyone who dares to question his opinion. He lacks an understanding of the processes of governance and the appropriate roles of the different institutions and departments of our government. He speaks in absolutes and lacks the sophistication to deal in nuance and historical perspective. As I have discussed in the past, he has no respect for the law and our Constitution and cares little for anyone other than himself and his family. This is the man and the behavior that the Republican Party has endorsed, supported and thrust upon us.
There comes a time when every politician is faced with fundamental questions. Do I take a position that I believe is contrary to the interests of my nation in order to support my party? Do I vote my conscience or my party? Do I support a position that I know is wrong or dangerous in order to protect my future election? At what point does self-interest and party discipline take a backseat to the best interests of our nation? The Republican Party’s answer to these questions has empowered Trump to continue his abhorrent behavior. Their silence in the face of such outrage is deafening. Their silence makes them accessories to the crime. Their efforts to obstruct investigations and deflect facts with “alternate facts” is appalling. What will they do when the facts are simply irrefutable?
American history has not been kind in its portrail of politicians. Rarely have they been presented as selfless patriots. Our history is replete with examples of politicians who were duplicitous, self-enriching and self-promoting. Yet, despite this egregious behavior our government functioned, our country prospered and our liberties were protected. Our system might be messy, but the end result, despite questionable behavior by those who represent us, is a nation that has served as a beacon of freedom and liberty to the world. Never has that legacy been in greater jeopardy.
Any objective observer will raise concerns about America’s future. We are, after all, a nation with a governing system of checks and balances, but the system seems to be heading toward paralysis. The Republican Party controls the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch and the Supreme Court is controlled by a conservative majority. Each is mandated by the Constitution to operate independently and check the others. Yet, thus far, the Legislative Branch has blindly fallen into line, allowing the Executive Branch to behave in a manner that is contrary to law and convention. The Court has, at the lower levels, questioned the Executive Branch’s behavior, but it is not clear yet how the Supreme Court will react. When the system of checks and balances is out of balance, the result is unpredictable and potentially very dangerous. It allows for unbridled rule of one of the branches. In this case it is clear that Trump is seeking to achieve that goal. Our only protection is a Republican Party that somehow attains the courage to play its rightful role. To this point they have behaved shamefully and without regard to the future of our Republic. We must make it clear that such behavior will be punished at the polls, assuming we all still have the right to vote.