Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
Bodies Along the Path
By David G. Young
Washington, DC, December 24, 2019 --
Trump has purged the Republican Party of men and women of conscience. Don't expect remaining politicians to stand up to him.
As the sycophantic minions of the party of Donald Trump prepare to answer his impeachment with a quick acquittal in the U.S. Senate, an eerie question hangs in the air: Where are the Republicans of principle who are willing to stand up to a corrupt and abusive president and defend America's democracy?
The answer, sadly, is that they have been picked off one by one, their bodies scattered on the sides of the paths to Republican primary elections over the last three years. If any principled Republicans remain in Congress, they are frightened and cowed into silence like a bourgeois Chinaman facing hundreds of true believers flapping their little red books.
To be sure, it wasn't always like this. In early 2016, as the Republican establishment watched in horror as awful man known as Donald Trump began winning primary after presidential primary, one party loyalist after another branded themselves as Never Trumpers. As the general election approached, the idea of dealing with a President Trump was out of the question -- the real question was how to repair the damage to the party after Trump inevitably lost the election.
Except he didn't lose, and the orange overlord demanded unquestioning obedience from the party machine he had conquered. Backed by hypnotized Republican primary supporters whose zombie-like ranks were bolstered by white racist crossovers from blue collar Democratic districts, the president's poll numbers amongst the Republican base remain sky high, even if Americans as a whole would like to see him removed from office.1
The peasants with pitchforks have been Trump's most powerful weapon, used to destroy any Republican of conscience who would dare to challenge the president's lying Tweetstorms. Just a year into his presidency, his then advisor Steve Bannon began recruiting Republican primary candidates to unseat Never Trumpers. Senator Bob Corker was the first to go. Faced with low poll numbers from his Trump-loving district, Corker announced in September 2017 that he would not fight against a pro-Trump primary challenger.2 A month later, Jeff Flake suffered the exact same fate, Steve Bannon endorsed a crackpot named Kelli Ward to challenge Flake in the primary. With polls showing Flake badly behind, the senator also announced he would not seek re-election.3
Not everybody gate up right away. Congressman Mark Sanford stayed in to battle Trump-endorsed challenger in his primary but was defeated in June 2018. Later that summer, natural causes ended the life of Senator John McCain, who had served as the leader of the Anti-Trump block of Republicans in Congress. Having lost McCain as his mentor, Senator Lindsay Graham latched on to Trump as a replacement. By the end of 2018, he had evolved from Never Trumper to the president's best golfing buddy and chief apologist.
The remaining Anti-Trump Republicans in Congress by this time had seen the writing on the wall and began to chart their own paths. Congressman Justin Amash, shunned by the his Republican colleagues after he announced his support for impeachment, was effectively run out of the party. Amash voted for impeachment as an independent.
Senator Ben Sasse, who faces re-election in 2020, and has a pro-Trump Republican primary challenger in Nebraska, silenced his own anti-Trump rhetoric early this year. Surprisingly, President Trump endorsed his once vocal critic in September. While there were no press releases about a backroom deal, don't expect Sasse to vote to remove the president in an impeachment trial. Other Senators who have been critical of Trump like Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander may have made their own deals with the devil. Unless they choose to tell us, we won't ever know the details.
But most Republicans in Congress were simply never men and women of conscience to begin with. Like their Democratic colleagues, they are nothing but politicians. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell epitomizes this breed. He probably has no love for Trump, but considers him a useful idiot. McConnell certainly knows not to stick his neck out when so many heads have rolled. Until the political winds begin to change, don't expect any of his Republican colleagues to do otherwise.