Alon Ben-Meir: The Republicans’ treasonous betrayal of the American people
There is nothing that Trump says or does that will surprise me anymore, no matter how shocking or outrageous. After three and a half years in office, he has ushered America to the brink of anarchy, a political condition that I now believe he has sought all along. But what is even more treacherous than Trump’s behavior is the way the Republican Party has followed him, worrisomely akin to blind sheep following a lost shepherd grazing in the meadows of national outrage. I wonder how many Republican governors and members of Congress look themselves in the mirror and ask: ‘why I am supporting a president who has sacrificed the country’s well-being on the altar of his ego, a man with a dangerous authoritarian instinct, a man who has divided rather than united the country, and one who will stoop to any low or ignore any law to satisfy his lust for power and personal gain?’
There is hardly a Republican leader who can answer this question publicly with honesty, because if they were honest, they would have raised their voices in defiance of Trump’s alarming behavior long ago. We would have heard them publicly stating – without fear of reprisal – where they stand, or watched them quitting the Republican party, or resigning from office in protest, or refusing to run again as long as Trump remains in power.
Sadly, such actions by Republican leaders have been exceptionally rare, allowing Trump to do essentially whatever he wants. The most critical question then is not how far Trump will go to promote his treasonous agenda, but for how long Republican leaders will silently accept and subserviently enable Trump to destroy the basic moral tenets and values on which this Union was founded, and which they swore to uphold and protect.
Republican leaders excuse their willfully blind support for Trump in a variety of ways that appear to relieve them of any sense of guilt, shame, or responsibility. They often pretend to have not heard or analyzed Trump’s acts or statements at issue. Indeed, at other times they claim it is not their place to comment, when in fact, it is their voices America needs to hear from most of all.
Unfortunately, those Republicans who stand for reelection dare not oppose Trump on any ground, fearing his wrath and vindictiveness. It has become abundantly clear that Republican leaders’ concerns about the well-being of the country are secondary to their political survival and hunger for power. They lie to themselves—and to us—perhaps thinking they can still do some good for the country, even while it is tearing apart in front of their eyes.
There are other Republican leaders who truly believe in their party’s conservative platform, and that as long as Trump backs their legislative scheme, they will support him regardless of his mischiefs, misconduct, and delinquency. Notwithstanding the harm to the country, they believe that what is good for the party is good for the nation, and those who disagree are simply uninformed and shortsighted. They view bipartisanship on any issue as a necessary evil as long as they can continue to promote the policies they espouse.
And then there are those bigot rejectionist Republicans who always see eye-to-eye with Trump; they defy, detest, and degrade any democratic initiative, regardless of how well-meaning or how well it might serve the country. For them, Trump is the savior who has been ordained by a higher authority to ‘drain the swamps that Obama left in his wake.’
One of those Republicans is the fascist Senator Tom Cotton, who in a New York Times editorial advocated that the Army should quell demonstrations. He and other degenerate Republicans represent the intransigent constituency, the so-called base—narrow-minded evangelicals, zealous conservatives, and white supremacists, who stick to and hail Trump because he is anti-Democrat, sufficiently conservative, and racist.
There exists a symbiotic relationship between Trump and the Republican leadership. Republican leaders want Trump to sign-off on their highly conservative agenda, including opposing new gun control laws, appointing conservative judges, rejecting women’s reproductive rights, denying climate change and promoting environmental deregulation, passing tax cuts mostly for the rich, drilling and fracking for oil and gas, privatizing healthcare, and, in principle, rejecting any initiative Democrats propose.
Although Trump is far more opportunist than political, he is willing to coddle the party as long as Republican leaders accommodate his tendencies and enable him to pursue his self-indulgent agenda. They have swallowed his 19,000 (and growing) lies and misrepresentations, his profiteering, bigotry, misuse of power, indecency, mendacity, meanness, rancorous nature, and perhaps most of all, his divisive policies pitting American against American.
No Republican has criticized Trump for his tragic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic that still ravages the country, his defunct foreign policy toward our allies and adversaries alike, his disjointed immigration policies, his nepotism, his threat to deploy the military to “defend the life and property of their [city and state] residents”, and his parading of military hardware in Washington, DC.
During the ongoing historic pandemic outbreak and the widespread protests throughout the country, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic resolution condemning Trump for using tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters near the White House. Senate Majority Leader McConnell objected, saying “It just indulges in a myopic obsession with President Trump that has come to define the Democratic side.”
Only a handful of Republicans leaders spoke, though feebly, against Trump’s actions regarding the protests: “He needs to make more unifying comments.” “The country is looking for healing and calm. And I think the president needs to project that in his tone.” “The president should help to heal the racial divisions.” “I do think some of his tweets have not been helpful…”
Of course, shame on us if we continue to be surprised by Republicans’ continuing silence, because as we all know, even when presented with overwhelming evidence that Trump committed crimes against the American people, Trump’s Republican stooges in the Senate exonerated him following impeachment almost unanimously.
Although Trump deserves much of the blame for the calamitous state of the nation, many of his transgressions and disastrous domestic and foreign policies could have been avoided had Republican leaders actually acted like leaders, stood their ground, protected the Constitution, and refused to bow to Trump’s whims. Their collective failure has caused the country immeasurable and perhaps irreparable damage, for which the American people must hold Republican Party accountable.
The Republican leadership, to be sure, has made its bed. It has committed moral suicide. History will judge them harshly for their treason and betrayal of the nation, including all of those who have lived and died throughout our history to foster and protect our safety, integrity, and freedom.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.