I have been getting a lot of mail from critics lately asking if I’m happy with the Biden administration. They point to some of the new president’s executive orders—the one about the Keystone XL pipeline, or the one rescinding the “Mexico City” policy withholding funds from international organizations that perform or advocate for abortion. They ask, snidely, whether I’m proud of my vote for the Democrat? Some add nuggets of advice, like “Your new liberal friends don’t actually like you, you know.”
My answer is that I have never been happier with a vote. It’s not because I think I’ve made “new friends.” Nor is it because I think Joe Biden will pursue a policy agenda I will agree with most of the time. It’s because we just came within a whisker of losing our democracy, and this presidency is a chance to rebuild it. We may yet blow it. Matters like the Keystone pipeline and even the Mexico City policy are trifles by comparison.
My correspondents won’t understand this. Might as well be speaking Pashto. Rightworld is in the process, once again, of bending reality to serve their leader, and in so doing, they are compounding the moral abdication that brought us January 6.
The immediate reactions to the attempted coup sound strangely mature and responsible now that the right has regrouped and settled back into its accustomed posture of Trump-excusing. The new narrative is that an impeachment trial would be 1) unconstitutional, 2) divisive, or 3) helpful to Trump because it gives him a platform. How quickly they have capitulated. It’s a mistake in this febrile era ever to assume you’ve taken the national temperature.
In the days immediately following the attack on the Capitol, Sen. Pat Toomey said the president had committed impeachable offenses and was unfit to serve. “I want him out,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News. “He has caused enough damage.” Sen. Ben Sasse said he would “definitely consider whatever articles” of impeachment the House might move. Sen. Lindsey Graham expressed his disgust on the Senate floor: “Trump and I, we had a hell of a journey. I hate it being this way . . . but today all I can say is count me out. Enough is enough. I tried to be helpful.” Sen. Mitch McConnell said Trump provoked the mob by feeding them lies, and signaled that he might be open to impeachment. Rep. Kevin McCarthy said Trump was responsible for the storming of the Capitol, and warned his caucus not to criticize members who voted for impeachment because it might endanger their lives. National Review published pro-impeachment articles, and the Wall Street Journal called for Trump to resign. Ten House Republicans, including a sulphuric Liz Cheney, voted to impeach. Even Ari Fleischer said, “At this point, I won’t defend him anymore. I won’t defend him for stirring the pot that incited the mob. He’s on his own.”
Oh, but he’s not. Just a few days later, Fleischer was retweeting a Wall Street Journal editorial suggesting that we really ought to move on, and that “Democrats and the press are addicted to Trump.” The Oregon GOP’s official position is that the assault on the Capitol was a false flag operation, mounted to “discredit” President Trump. Graham was back onsides in a matter of days. Having weathered harassment by Trump fanatics at National Airport, he skittered back to the boss, telling Fox News that “I hope people in our party understand the party itself. If you’re wanting to erase Donald Trump from the party, you’re gonna get erased.”
Like dominoes, the old gang began falling into line. Prof. Jonathan Turley, who’s been saying that impeaching a non-incumbent is unconstitutional, was invited to the Senate GOP luncheon. All but five Republicans (Romney, Sasse, Murkowski, Collins, and Toomey) voted for a resolution introduced by Sen. Rand Paul echoing the Turley view. Trump loyalists circulated a petition to remove Cheney from her House leadership post. National Review published a John Bolton piece arguing that the second impeachment was as “flawed as the first.” Too partisan. Too hasty. It will give him a platform. You know the drill.
Sen. Marco Rubio said the impeachment is “stupid.” Oh, and did he mention “divisive?”
The infinitely flexible Nikki Haley asks not whether former President Trump attempted to steal the election, but how low the base would like her to sink. Appearing on the Laura Ingraham show, she offered up the expected persecution narrative: “They beat him up before he got into office. They are beating him up after he leaves office. I mean, at some point, I mean, give the man a break. I mean, move on.”
See how this works? It was Trump who was beaten, not Officer Sicknick.
Republicans are like toddlers encouraged to put on big boy underpants. They understand that it’s exciting to be a big boy. They want to. But they also know that if they put on big boy underpants, they will have responsibilities. They will have to act like big boys. So they retreat to the comfort of their diapers.
The persecution complex is eternal—the sense that Democrats and “the media” are willing to do anything to “get” Trump and that therefore they must be ready to respond in kind. Such is the cultishness of the Republican party base and the obedience of its supposed leaders that we’ve plumbed the depths of sycophancy. We’ve run the experiment and gotten our answer. There really is nothing Trump could do that would forfeit the support of the GOP. He didn’t literally shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, but he sabotaged Americans’ faith in elections, attempted to intimidate the Secretary of State of Georgia into altering the election count, and set a violent mob against the Congress (killing one officer and four others). He has blood on his hands. But in the words of his #1 toady, Lindsey Graham: “He’s going to be the most important voice in the Republican Party for a long time to come.”
So, no regrets about voting for an honorable Democrat. I only pray that, with the reprieve we’ve bought, we can repair the awful breach in this country before it’s too late.