Republicans Have Abandoned Their Principles
And voters may make them pay in November.
Congressional Republicans have lashed themselves firmly to the boat of Donald Trump and they richly deserve to sink with it.
At a time when it is more important than ever for Congress to exercise its constitutional duty to be a check and balance on a dangerous presidency, the Republican majority has largely rolled over and played dead. For many, their complicity with Trump stems not from principle but cowardice.
The threat posed by Trump was succinctly spelled out recently by Minister Michael Schuler of Madison’s First Unitarian Society. The Rev. Schuler denounced “Mr. Trump’s misogyny, his mendacity, his recklessness, his self-dealing, his willful ignorance and his pugnacity.” He added: “That an individual possessing these characteristics commands so much power is chilling.”
The necessity of a check on an unstable president and a chaotic presidency is precisely the reason that our country’s founders created separate but equal branches of government. America desperately needs legislative leaders who will stand up to Trump when he degrades the presidency, cozies up to murderous dictators, corrupts the government to increase his wealth, and threatens democracy with attacks on press freedom and the independence of the justice system.
GOP Sen. Bob Corker admitted that Republican lawmakers are frightened of their party’s hard core. Corker said, “The president is … very strong among the Republican base. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature.” In Republican primaries, candidates are attacked for any criticism they have made of Trump, even disapproval stemming from his boast of sexual assault on the “Access Hollywood” tape.
Rather than confront Trump, Republicans leaders have displayed outright cowardice. As the satirical Borowitz Report put it, “Scientists baffled by McConnell and Ryan’s ability to stand upright without spines.” The GOP rank and file in Congress, with very few exceptions, have followed suit.
Trump’s attacks on the criminal probe of his campaign’s relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the subsequent cover-up is a case in point. When Trump threatened the special counsel, most Republicans were intimidated into silence. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Whip John Cornyn were quiet as church mice, as were the Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Republicans have stalled bills to protect the special counsel and even Republicans who originally sponsored that legislation have been intimidated into backing off.
Republicans have been bullied into supporting Trump’s policies even when they are in direct conflict with positions that they have previously vehemently proclaimed. Republicans have for years campaigned against the national debt, but under Trump they abandoned that concern as Trump balloons the annual deficit to more than a trillion dollars.
Free trade is another area where the congressional Republicans have been frightened into silence. A party that had pushed free trade, regardless of the consequences, now goes along with Trump as he haphazardly wages a trade war.
Nowhere is the Republican cowardice more on than display than on the issue of character. After claiming for years that a candidate’s personal life is relevant, they have turned a blind eye to a president whose conduct is inimical to every value the Republicans had previously claimed they cherished.
The need for a change of the party in control of Congress couldn’t be clearer. Fortunately, the public appears to agree. In a recent Suffolk University Poll, voters by an almost 2-to-1 margin said they want a Congress that will stand up to Donald Trump and that will impose limits on him.
I love summer in Wisconsin, but, this year, November can’t come soon enough.
This column was originally published by Madison’s Cap Times.
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves as the vice president of the national Sierra Club and is an adjunct professor of urban and regional planning at UW-Madison.