Before it eventually collapses with political rot, the Trumpublican Party fecklessly enables the unprincipled, undignified, even un-American fool we’ve placed in the White House. Whatever President Trump’s lying, scorn of separation of powers, reprehensible treatment of allies, silence in the face of Russian attack on elections, Congress—to the extent of its authority—must bear responsibility as if those were its actions and decisions. But Congressional spinelessness about Trump parallels Trump’s absurd lap-dog behavior toward Russian President Putin. In light of Trump’s recent stains on America’s international reputation, a few of our Article 1 elected officials might rise up in protest against his perfidy; a few of those might even mouth accountability pleas for more than a few days. But don’t count on much for long that resembles integrity.
I admit it is inviting to pick on Donald Trump. After all, he has proudly displayed his disgracefulness for all to see since long before announcing his candidacy. Republican candidates for awhile had the cojones to oppose him. That was before they decided he wasn’t so bad after all . . . especially if you’re careful to stay on his good side.) He has earned all the mockery he himself loves to brandish. The Baby Trump balloon aimed at the American head of state in London is tasteless, to be sure, but less so than its object. Despite those considerations, however, it seems, well, easy pickings after so many months of his childish ego, interpersonal coarseness, and lies.
Neither his pathology nor his evil is new after his embarrassing performances in Singapore, Canada, Belgium, England, and Finland to top off 18 months of bizarre presidential swings from proto-despotism to buffoonery. Even I have tired of searching for adjectives worthy of this loathsome man. It’s time to stop wasting effort on the same sad list to describe him. It’s time to focus on those who could rein in his excesses but will not: senators and congressmen/women in the majority of both houses, including those who this week act as if they are just now discovering his treachery. It is they who help him diminish and endanger America.
I give credit to the approximately 1/3 of majority party leaders who this week have expressed that enough is enough. But where have they been all along? Have they just not noticed? Republicans in Congress—once a party with no shortage of admirable leaders—have shamefully become a mad man’s groveling toadies. Suddenly noticing one or another stage of Trumpian indecency is hardly an effective antidote for what has become, with their assistance, an appalling new normal. This week’s ability by a minority of the majority to speak out assures only that a newer but not better new normal awaits us. I fear it does not demonstrate that strength of character has bloomed in the Congress.
Surely not all Republicans roaming the Capitol are committed more to party or re-election than country. Surely not all are either dumb or deluded. Whimpers of “but what can we do, after all, he was elected president” are hardly convincing coming from officials who act as if they’re unaware the Legislative Branch is beholden to its Constitutional tasks and independence, not to the president.
The House has the powerful Constitutional prerogative of impeaching a president. (This post is not an argument for impeachment; that requires further considerations, both political and Constitutional.) But does entrusting that much power to the House not give license to exercise authority up to—that is, just less than—impeachment, such as censure, demands for financial disclosure, and subjecting to inspection translator’s notes from the private Helsinki meeting? Failing such assertive Congressional actions, would it be too much to ask senators and representatives to at least stop carrying Trump’s water?
Is it possible that as-yet-unused technical political possibilities may be unearthed by a clever parliamentarian? In the Senate, it took only chutzpah and the approval of majority senators for Sen. McConnell to invent an extralegal maneuver to thwart President Obama’s SCOTUS nomination. Can that level of creativity not be summoned to slacken the pace at which we sacrifice hard-won national values to feed Trump’s pathetic ego?
Will Trumpublicans restore the Republicanism that once was home to intellectual integrity, international good citizenship, trustworthiness, and—though the term died a deserved death—compassionate conservatism? Will they seriously try to find a way that isn’t blocked by having to meet the test for high crimes and misdemeanors? Will they even notice there’s a runaway president problem to be solved, or that this is not a partisan problem, but an American problem? Will they allow sacred aspects of Americanism to die piece by piece from each toxic new normal to the next?
The long term effects of the 2016 election will not be known for decades. But at minimum, as published by George Will just yesterday, “Now we shall see how many Republicans retain a capacity for embarrassment.”