The Republicans’ Deplorable Cowardice

Clete Wetli | February 3, 2020 | Opinion Article

The only accurate description of the U.S. Senate Impeachment “Trial” of President Trump is that it was a singularly deplorable and mind-numbing display of Republican political cowardice. The adamant refusal of GOP Senators to subpoena witnesses and documents was beyond disgraceful and, indeed, contemptuous of America’s Constitution and the rule of law itself. It was the sickening culmination of a “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” defense strategy displaying a stubborn, willful disregard for facts and employing dazzling misdirection simply to preserve short-term political gain and power.

The Republicans’ spectacle of cowardice and absurd rationalizations were frankly nauseating, although cynically expected.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many of his GOP brethren made it clear from the beginning that they were committed to blindly following Trump, whatever the cost, and that they never had any intention of honoring their oaths to consider the matter impartially. It was a remarkable and historic example of the insidious power of fear in modern politics.

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Worse, they were keenly aware of the devastating long-term consequences of their refusal to hold Trump accountable. They have made the Office of the President of the United States akin to a monarchy or, worse, a dictatorship. They have turned partisanship into a cultish, zealous religion that demonizes any who do not share their impassioned, narrow views. They have been eagerly complicit in the wanton destruction of institutional norms and sacred democratic traditions. They have stained the rule of law by turning it into ‘the law when convenient’, depending on who, and which party, is in power. 

Their excuses and explanations have been inane and contrived. AL Senator Richard Shelby stated in an ABC interview with George Stephanopolous, regarding Trump’s solicitation of foreign interference in U.S. elections, “Well, those are just statements, political. They make them all the time…I didn’t say it was OK. I said people make them — people do things. Things happen…Well, still the president of the United States is human. And he’s going to make mistakes of judgment and everything else.”

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Yeah. It’s the “he did it, but we don’t care” defense based on Trump’s profane prediction that “(he) could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and (he) wouldn’t lose any voters.” Sadly, it’s fairly true notwithstanding the swamp-gas repugnance and lack of respect implied in that remark.

Predictably, Trump will crow on cue that he has been vindicated, exonerated, and acquitted. Yet, the slow drip of truth as it leaks its way into the press will reveal his lengthy resume of misconduct and criminality and expose his co-conspirators and enablers. At some point, hopefully, sooner rather than later, the nightmare of the Trump Era will end. Republicans will have to answer for their statements, behavior, and their votes. History will not be kind to them.

In the meantime, Trump will continue to dismantle, destroy, and demonize. Eventually, as they say, the chickens will come home to roost. Hopefully, there will be a sound rebuke of Trump and Trumpism at the polls this November. It may take decades to clean up the mess he’s made domestically and internationally. 

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Republicans don’t think they’ve been cowardly and, instead, believe they have righteously defended the new orthodoxy of Trumpism. They may sincerely and steadfastly believe that, but like so many things in the Trump Era, it’s simply not true. Not even a little.

As George Orwell wrote in his seminal masterpiece, “Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

This new Trump-Republican orthodoxy is the epitome of cowardice and it will forever become their stained and malignant legacy. 

Indeed, it is deplorable.

Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.

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