In our democratic Republic, political parties have a “circuit breaker” role to play.
Back in 1991, David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, placed second in the Louisiana open primary for governor. Then President George H.W. Bush denounced Duke, saying that he “has long record, an ugly record of racism and bigotry … I believe should be rejected for what he is and what he stands for.” A Democrat won the governor’s race. The Republican party drew the line on the right side of the fight against racism.
About seven years ago, the Republican National Committee withdrew support from Missouri’s Senate candidate, Todd Akin. He tried to distinguish between “legitimate” rape and a different kind of rape. The Republican Party drew the line on the right side of decency.
In 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S. until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” It was a clear violation of the Constitution’s Article VI protections against religious tests, and the Republican Party this time did nothing.
Why did Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee Chairman, who had previously supported the need to expand its appeal beyond white Christian voters, keep silent?
Donald Trump learned that first lesson and delighted in humiliating Priebus when he was the chief of staff because Trump discovered that Priebus, like the Republican Party itself, was weak and worthy of his disgust!
The Republican Party seems to have retreated to the party of 1960s Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox’s “ax handles” – refusing to serve black customers at his restaurant in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or 1960s – and ‘70s Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s “standing in the schoolhouse door.”
Further evidence of this shift came in 2017 when the Republican National Committee and President Trump endorsed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who had accusations of multiple child molestations and a troubled history on race.
“Lock her up,” “send them back,” unconstitutional requests to foreigners to find “dirt” on political opponents, and saying there are “fine people on both sides” of white supremacy, speaks volumes.
And a president violating emoluments provisions and self-dealing in plain sight.
I wish I could be confident that the “Better Angels” could overcome this.
Whatever happened to the belief of “compassionate conservatism,” the 1956 Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower victory with 39% of the African-American vote or the belief that tariffs are harmful to working families?
If the Republican Party moved away from its current platform of misogyny, xenophobia, LBGTQ hate, religious intolerance, greed and self-dealing, and revenge, it could cost the 2020 White House, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s seat and Matt Bevin’s Kentucky governorship, but it could incorporate some long-term gains.
However, many of us remain skeptical on whether Republicans will ever stop supporting self-dealing Donald Trump.
Many are comparing this period of impeachment inquiry to the Watergate investigations. But Republicans believe that Republican support for Richard Nixon in 1974 was strong right up to the point in Aug. 8, 1974, when Mr. Nixon resigned.
But there are cracks in Trump’s support with his own admission of unconstitutional behavior.
Just to remind everyone, in 1974 many Republicans finally tired of being lied to, and being asked to lie to their constituents, after months of believing those partisan Democrats were overreaching.
The process of democracy has always been messy and chaotic.
Voters will often make bad choices, and sometimes those choices produce horrifying outcomes.
Our system has been incredibly resilient, and a much better alternative to non-democratic systems which lead to corruption and oppression, our current trends excepted.
As John Dewey taught, we need to educate and empower citizens, not through hiding out in our echo chambers, but through talking with our neighbors, workmates, and family members.
The Republican Party must decide if it is defined by Trump’s reckless, lawless behavior, beyond activist, partisan judges and tax breaks for the rich. This is what they will be remembered for.
A wise politician once said: “Be for the Future. It’s going to happen anyway.”
The question for Republicans is not “Are you better off today?” but “Where will you draw the line?”
Marshall Ward is a Murray resident who is a member of the Democratic Party. He may be reached at email@example.com. n