A collage of the US Constitution ripped off with a photo of Donald Trump.

State of Disunion

The GOP Doesn’t Have a Line in the Sand

The more despotically Trump behaves, the more forcefully Senate Republicans display their loyalty to him and betray the country. And the Dems aren’t fighting back vigorously enough.

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Something critical has shifted in the past two weeks. We are at a new inflection point, a culmination of sorts—but not in any way the end—of the poisoning of our democracy by the people who are sworn to protect it. It is terrifying, and enraging. On the one hand we have Trump and the GOP, openly attacking the very foundations of our constitutional government, and on the other, a Democratic party whose leadership seems unable to adapt to that attack with the force necessary to defend us.

Trump and the GOP’s unprecedented attack on our democracy requires an unprecedented response from the Democrats, who need to jettison the politesse and stand up forcefully now, or there will have been little point to our 2018 House victories and a thin hope of recapturing the presidency in 2020, or perhaps ever again. We need an urgent intervention, such as a full-scale impeachment investigation, not decorous requests for documents that are ignored or ever-receding Maginot lines of deadlines that are never met, threats of subpoenas that are never issued, as our country descends further into quasi-fascism. And we, as citizens, need to demand this intervention and support it vocally.  Whether this country can recover and restore itself to a functioning democracy is an open question, but the answer will be “no” without a drastic change in tactics by all of us, without a recognition of the challenges we face and the nature of the Trump/Republicans’ war on democratic values.

For Trump is unraveling, becoming more unhinged and erratic, more despotic, almost by the day. He is in open cognitive decline. You don’t have to be a shrink or neuropsychologist to see it. Read the transcript of any of his recent speeches: He is incoherent, free-associating, and paranoid, as he warns that his live TV appearance will be “leaked.” He mixes up words, can barely utter a complete sentence. (Don’t mock his confusion of “oranges” for “origins.”  It’s a function of dementia, not stupidity.) That cognitive decline would be scary and destabilizing enough on its own, but married to the character traits of a sociopath, it is even more dangerous. The rage and lack of capacity, the flailing, the insults, the paranoia and conspiracies, the self-aggrandizement, the raw hatred, the lies, the attacks on others, the rejection of facts, the assaults on the most basic of democratic institutions, the vindictiveness and pettiness, the frothing obsession over his own illegitimacy, yes, they were all there before. But it is all getting worse, in plain sight, and it is not just decompensation.

What’s worse: The GOP has coalesced ever more tightly around him, even—especially— as his conduct has worsened. Those few some of us mistakenly thought would be “reachable” in the face of flagrant abuse of power are doubling down in support of his assaults on the fundamental precepts required for our country to function as a democratic state, not least of all, government oversight and protection of our elections. Gone is any residual hope that at least some of these GOP congresspeople would act to preserve the institution as a co-equal branch of government, abide by the Constitution, protect this country from foreign enemies and influence, repel fascism, and not risk our national security, not suborn overt obstruction of justice and criminality, and reject the forces of darkness that are rising across Europe, South America, and elsewhere.

But as Trump’s depredations and Constitutional violations and lies have compounded in frequency and severity, as the devolution continues, as the corruption of his administration metastasizes, as wingnuts bray nonsense from their Fox News perches that Trump tweets into policy prescriptions within hours, as our norms are shattered with impunity, the GOP has not said “no.” It has not said “enough is enough.”  Don’t wait for a McCarthy moment to happen—it won’t. No matter what crimes or corrupt acts are contained in the Mueller report, no matter how foul Trump’s behavior, no matter if he offers to bribe a Customs and Border Patrol commissioner to break the law, or incites citizens to shoot shoot Representative Ilhan Omar in the face on Fifth Avenue—or even does it himself—the Grand Old Party will be there to deny or even celebrate his actions and try to hide the truth from the American people. 

No matter how unhinged, how patently unfit, how incompetent, how erratic, how vile, how cruel, how treasonous, how dangerous Trump’s conduct appears to be, Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly that they will close ranks and defend him. There will be no breaking point. They support Attorney General William Barr’s cover-up and have joined in Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” falsehood; they defend ripping children from their parents’ arms; they support his dismantling of the FBI’s domestic terrorism unit even as Trump inspires such terrorists at home and abroad. They fight against the Violence Against Women Act—as Trump  is an admitted and accused sexual assaulter—and they seek to strip women of any control over their own bodies and lives. They fast-track and rubber-stamp the confirmation of religious fanatics and partisan extremists whose views are rejected by 80 percent of Americans into lifelong judicial positions from which they can tyrannize the rest of the country. They sabotage any effort to preserve the planet. They refuse to bring to a vote critical reforms necessary to remove the pernicious and undemocratic influence of big money and corporations and foreigners from our elections. They refuse to protect our voting machines from hacking and continue to actively prevent people from getting to the polls. They allow critical cabinet appointments to go unfilled and let them be staffed by  stooges so corrupt Putin would salivate over them. And as Trump descends into worse and worse violations, both personally and through his toadies, the Republicans will continue to support him.

Through it all the Republicans also gaslight us and pretend this is normal: They attack Democrats as “partisans” for daring to insist that a criminal fraudster like Trump should not be above the law, that it is fine to install his unqualified children into government positions and give them security clearances and access to classified information over the objection of career officials, even if it endangers the country. They not only refuse to join in necessary examination into the ways in which the Trump crime family’s business interests now substitute for foreign policy, they pretend such examination is untoward and attack Democrats for engaging in it. 

And no matter how outrageous the behavior, no matter how much Trump violates the very Constitution he is meant to defend and uphold, no matter how he attacks the citizens he should be protecting, it is clear there will be no 25th Amendment solution—and Senate Republicans will make sure they never convict him were he to be impeached. They will defend his cognition just as they defend his attacks on children, the Democrats, women, people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQIA community, the disabled, the press, and the truth. They will turn a blind eye to his obstructions of justice, his Constitutional violations, his tax fraud, and the national security risk he poses to the United States. They will lie for him, cheat for him, deflect for him—because he is them and they are him.

Recall how the GOP held hearings on Benghazi—the military action that resulted in the death of four Americans—not because they sought a good faith understanding of what went wrong in order to ensure better safety for U.S. embassy workers, but in order to discredit both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (in sharp contrast to when, under Ronald Reagan, the American embassy in Beirut was bombed, killing hundreds, and the Democratic-controlled Congress conducted a real inquiry without ever weaponizing the tragedy for political gain against Reagan). After all, in the face of Trump’s slavering admiration for Vladmir Putin, and his denial of Russia’s interference in the election, of his acceptance of Putin’s word over that of U.S. intelligence agencies in Helsinki, of lies about his business interests in Russia and his campaign’s 100-plus communications with Russia during the campaign, the GOP knew there was an urgent, compelling national security interest in investigating to determine whether Trump was a treasonous Manchurian candidate—they stonewalled their own oversight investigations and now slough off Trump’s astonishing malfeasance. They even join in his dangerous accusations against the public servants who spearheaded the investigation and against the Democrats alarmed by his misconduct, falsely characterizing their defense of their country as “spying” and “treason.” To deflect from Trump’s misconduct, they insist on opening investigations into James Comey and others, including HIllary Clinton for events of over a decade ago, which have long since been proven a red herring. 

For Trump and the GOP, insisting on the principle that a president is not above the law is now tantamount to treason if that president is Trump. And so the GOP rubber-stamped William Barr’s appointment as Attorney General after he auditioned for the job with a memo asserting a president can’t obstruct justice, knowing full well Barr’s long history as a partisan who enabled another Republican president’s obstruction of justice. Now they are supporting Barr’s partisan adoption of the right-wing “spying” conspiracy to go after the patriots who sought to determine whether Trump was compromised, and thus jeopardizing national security—as was their duty. The GOP has not only given cover to and amplified the Trump team’s extraordinary, ongoing lies and attacks on anyone who attempts to prevent him from abusing his power, they are supporting the raw politicization and weaponization of the Department of Justice against career public servants, their political opponents, and the citizenry itself. This is the stuff of banana republics and fascist states.

But we knew that there was no difference between the GOP and Trump when Republicans rammed through their tax scam to benefit Trump and other ultra-wealthy people at the expense of almost everyone else, when they targeted harmful tax results at blue states simply for the sadistic thrill of inflicting harm on Democratic voters, when they said nothing in the face of the Muslim ban, when they stole a Supreme Court seat from the 66 million people who voted for Obama, when they spent the first two years of Trump’s administration trying to strip people of their health care. And because he is them and they are him, they will do everything in their power to ensure that Trump and his family are never held accountable.

The government is run by monsters like Stephen Miller, a debased creature straight out of central casting, and by corrupt arrogant bastards like Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross and Mitch McConnell, and by smoothly lying lickspittles like Barr, Senator Lindsey Graham, VP Mike Pence, whose servile prostration before Trump would be the stuff of parody were it not so nauseating and dangerous. Not one of these people puts the Constitution or democracy or the country first. Not one cares that the majority of Americans are angry and disgusted and in pain, or considers it any kind of obligation to act for the good of the entire country, rather than to satisfy the whims of Trump and his bigoted and corrupt base.

I see a lot of people turning away in disgust from the news, from from social media, from real-life conversation, and, also from ACTION. I see fear and despair. And so much exhaustion.

I share these feelings. Last week, with Barr’s outrageous testimony and the state-level efforts to criminalize abortion and the disrespect of Mnuchin for Representative Maxine Waters and the rank imbecility of that Representative Thomas Massie toward John Kerry and the despicable, disingenuous letter by all Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee calling on Representative Adam Schiff  to step down as Chair and the odious Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election, I wanted to disappear or close my eyes or just pretend this is not our world.

But it is. And it can get far worse. That is what the GOP across the country, with Trump at its helm, is trying to do. There is no easy fix for our broken political system. But we have two choices: fight, or give up.

We can’t turn away, and we can’t just wait for 2020.  If we all recognize that there are no saviors, no magic, easy fixes, no clean cure for the GOP’s rot or its supporters’ selfishness and bigotry, if we just recognize that each of us has it in us to do something, something more than just vote, to pick at least one project to work on now to save our country—not a year from now, not six weeks before the election, but now and all year long—we will be able to save ourselves the way we started to in 2018. Because the dysfunction that birthed Trump and that he and his party have sown will remain whether or not we defeat them in 2020. We need to create a massive opposition to recapture our country now—and that means going after the GOP, demanding the Democrats do more to defend us, and doing everything we can to communicate to both parties that that the Trump-GOP is unacceptable to the majority of Americans, and that we will remove him by any means possible.

If we do not, if we allow Trump’s attacks on us and our country to be resolved by an election that Republicans will largely oversee, we will have accepted those attacks and let the GOP act as if 2020 is just another election in a real democracy, when in fact the GOP has broken that democracy, rigging for their benefit against the rest of us. Not acting now makes the prospect of success in 2020 dimmer. Trump and the GOP will be further entrenched, their assaults on democracy further normalized. 

We need to understand that this is not a one-off fight. We should not have to fight all the time  for decency, or for our lives, against our own government. But Trump and the GOP have made it crystal clear that very few lives matter to them, and most of those lives that do are rich, white, cis male, heterosexual, and donate to the GOP.

Many of us are not used to living this way.  It’s a horrible way to live, but people adapt, don’t they? They become inured, or they fight. 

I refuse to become inured. I choose to fight and I hope you will do the same.  Fighting doesn’t guarantee our victory. But giving up guarantees theirs.

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