When U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, got indicted again last week, a chorus of Democratic politicians called for him to resign. Senator John Fetterman was the first of his colleagues to call for his resignation. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and most of the Democrats in New Jersey legislature have called for him step down. So have half the Democratic members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation.
In contrast, Donald Trump has been accused of paying off a porn star, stealing classified documents, urging elected officials to violate their oaths of office, and undermining our democracy by defrauding the government and attempting to disenfranchise voters. Almost every Republican except Mitt Romney has either come to his defense or stayed silent. A focus group of Trump loyalists shows Republican voters will continue to support him even when they can’t defend his actions. It’s the sign of an utterly corrupt party.
Democrats have always policed their own. Democratic senators, not Republicans, forced Al Franken to resign for flimsy allegations that today look almost quaint. In North Carolina, a Democratic led Board of Elections found corruption in the Mike Easley administration that led to resignations and even prison terms. Democrats believe that accountability is essential for a healthy democracy.
The contrast between the Democrats’ reaction to Menendez and Republicans’ response to Trump is striking. One party clearly believes in accountability and the other does not. In general, Democrats believe in good government while Republicans believe in power. George Santos is still a member of Congress because his vote is more important than the integrity of the GOP. Of course, “integrity of the GOP” is an oxymoron.
The party that once claimed to have the moral high ground has shown it has little morality. While the base rages about insane pedophilia conspiracies, they cheer on Congressman Jim Jordan who turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of teenagers while he was a wrestling coach. In South Carolina, Republican Jeff Duncan, who portrayed himself as a family values candidate, is apparently a serial philanderer who is leaving his wife and family for his lobbyist girlfriend. Married South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has been carrying on a long-term affair with married Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski. Don’t expect any Republicans to hold them accountable for their actions or their hypocrisy.
This failure of integrity and accountability matters. Republicans’ whole argument right now is “Democrats are as bad as we are.” That sentiment is driving the investigation into Hunter Biden and the impeachment inquiry. The goal is to muddy the waters among people who aren’t paying attention—and it’s largely working. Voters aren’t distinguishing between the two parties, even though one is demonstrably more corrupt than the other one.
Republicans have used this strategy since the days of Nixon. Instead of owning the abuse of power in the administration, the GOP message became, “Everybody does it. Nixon just got caught.” They successfully soured the nation on all politicians, eroding trust in government and political leaders.
The media, for its part, needs to start covering politics differently. The two parties are not the same. One polices its own. The other does not. Republicans’ refusal to hold their elected officials accountable is systemic, but the press is treating each scandal as a separate incident. The common thread is the silence of party leaders. Menendez, Franken, and others show a distinct difference in the parties’ approach to accountability.
The press needs to realize that as Republicans try to pack the courts, they are attempting to further reduce their responsibility. They won’t hold their own accountable and they don’t want them to answer in a court of law, either. They are trying to further concentrate power and reduce the checks and balances established in the Constitution. The growing GOP scandals and the attempts to water down democracy are all part of the same systemic abuse of power.
Republicans have learned that they have a base that has reduced the world into good and evil and can be thoroughly manipulated. Republicans, despite all evidence, can do no wrong. Democrats are always evil. Republican leaders won’t hold any of their miscreants accountable because to do so would undermine their gaslighting. The GOP is now taking their advantage to the next level by reducing the ability of the judiciary to hold Republicans responsible for their actions.
For their part, Democrats will continue to hold their leaders accountable. They don’t have such an easily manipulated base. They fundamentally believe in good government and the concept of democracy. They will fight, both internally and with Republicans, over how to implement policies. While the party is a long way from perfect, on the issues of accountability and integrity, they are demonstrably better than the GOP. The press needs to take note. It’s not both sides. That’s just the Republican message.