Looking the other way

by | Jul 21, 2017 | Ads, Trump | 6 comments

Shortly after the election in November, one GOP pundit criticized Democrats for lacking faith in the strength of the American system to survive a president like Donald Trump. He pointed to the institutions and balance of powers that protect our government and its citizens. What he neglected to realize is that those institutions are run by people and if they choose not to do their duties, then the protections don’t work. That’s what’s happening now.

With control of both Houses of Congress in a hyper-polarized environment, Republicans are choosing to look the other way as Trump runs over the norms that have defined the presidency and limited its power. It’s likely coming to a head soon. Trump is probably going to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and/or Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Will the GOP take action in defense of the Republic or just in defense of Trump?

Trump’s already talking to his lawyers about pardoning staff and family members. Clearly, he knows people in his inner circle violated laws. He’s more interested in protecting those around him than protecting the public good. As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote, “Trump has done no evident reflection on the obligations to the public that accompany the massive public authority that has been entrusted to him. He has no clear sense of why it is even desirable, as a matter of public trust, to demonstrate respect for the norms and procedures that are meant to safeguard against abuses of that authority.”

During his short tenure, Trump has spent almost as much time promoting is business interests as attending the duties of the presidency. Last weekend, while his fellow Republicans scrambled to save the Obamacare repeal effort, he was at one of his resorts that was hosting the U.S.  Women’s Open. He’s already being sued by the district attorneys of Washington, DC and Maryland for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution that’s designed to keep presidents from profiting from their position. Republicans in Congress have remained silent.

Internationally, Trump repeatedly embarrasses the country. The party that’s known for advocating a tough foreign policy as Leader of the Free World said little when the president undermined the authority of NATO. They’ve sat silently while Trump weakens our relationships in western Europe while empowering dictators like Putin.

But we’ve seen this before. The conservative party has little respect for norms of government. It just wants to win or impede. The Senate will be a very different institution after Mitch McConnell’s tenure as Minority and now Majority leader. His fellow Republicans said little as he destroyed the filibuster, first by abusing it as Minority Leader and then scrapping it to get his sole accomplishment so far—the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. And McConnell disrespected the process, the body and his position when he denied Merrick Garland a hearing before the Senate. Republicans won’t control the body forever, but the changes they’ve made will outlast them.

Politically and functionally, we’ll be worse off as a country because of Republican rule. The Senate will be a less deliberative body where the minority party will have significantly less influence. The presidency will have less accountability because the GOP decided to turn a blind eye to Trump’s abuses. We might survive Donald Trump, but our government will not be the same and it will take years to repair the damage, if it can be repaired at all.


  1. Jay ligon

    Thomas, your political insights are on the money.

    Republicans, like the rest of America, were surprised by Trump’s unexpected win in November. With majorities in the House and Senate and an opportunity to steal a Supreme Court seat from the Democrats, it must have felt like an embarrassment of riches – all three branches of government and most of the state houses in their grip.

    Now that they control the country, they could roll back taxes on the rich, eradicate Obamacare, flush all the environmental protections, weaken financial safeguards, and spend lavishly on defense. None of these objectives were new to Republican politics.

    Nor was it news to anyone that they cheated to win elections. Voter suppression is out there for the public to see like a Pride parade in San Francisco. Gerrymandering has been choking the life out of Democracy since 2010 when technology met pestilential rogues who sketched the nation’s destiny until 2020. If gerrymandering and suppression were not enough, the Republicans tampered with voting rights at the polls and, possibly, changed codes.

    Every court in the land had a shot at complaining about the racist renaissance that emboldened hate groups and brought the KKK out of hiding. White Separatists displayed their allegiance to the Confederacy from flag poles, jean jackets and tank tops at Trump rallies. This was not brand new. It was a reprise of an ugly chapter from our past brought back for another round. This time, though, the target of the bands of deplorables expanded beyond Jews and blacks to encompass Mexicans and Muslims.

    That’s the Republican Party we know. That GOP grew out of Newt’s Contract on America transfigured by Karl Rove and the zombies who sucked the blood out of our soldiers in Iraq. Their playbook of dirty tricks was anticipated. They suppressed votes and kept voting machines out of Democratic districts. They intimidated vote counters. They lied, cheated and stole high office. That’s old news.

    Since World War II, every Republican who held high office did so by trying to out-patriot the Democrat. They waived a bigger flag. They hated Commies more. They found pinko sympathy where it did not exist, and it was a winner for them.

    Today, we are seeing something new in American politics – The Republican Quisling – The Traitor to American Self Defense.
    It is a breathtaking thing to see.

    These Republicans surrender to the nation’s enemies without a fight, shrug their shoulders when we are attacked, deny the evidence of the clear and present danger to our nation from the same foreign power we have fought since the end of World War II. By contrast, Neville Chamberlain was a Profile in Courage.

    With every passing day, there is further, reliable evidence of collusion with the enemy and sedition in the White House, of a president who blurts out state secrets in the hope that he will be accepted by the club of kleptomaniacs who run the former Eastern bloc, and of a Republican Party that cannot protect the nation from its enemies.

    It is not a requirement that every patriotic American should serve in the military. Thomas Jefferson served his country without putting on a uniform, but The United States cannot survive as a great nation with Republicans in control of all the branches of government who are conflicted about which side they are on. We need our government on our side, America’s side. Russia can go to hell.

  2. Walt de Vries, Ph.D.

    Thomas: Your analysis was needed and correct. What Trump is doing to this nation will be around for a long time. Trump’s inevitable resignation or impeachment will not reverse what he has done to the tone, content and structure of American politics, our campaigns and representative government.
    Can’t you hear the questions coming now?
    Why not lie?,…Why not cheat?…Why not steal?…Why not corrupt?…Why not use personal attacks on anyone you choose?…Why not use government to make a personal fortune?…Why not sell out this nation to its foremost enemies?…Why not work to take away the votes of minorities and the poor?….Why not place this nation in the hands of its wealthiest people?…Why not keep going to war using this nation’s economic and racial minorities to fight those wars?…Why ever tell the truth about your issue stands, political philosophy and vision?…Indeed,why even try to build this democracy when it is so much easier to just tear it down?
    As a campaign consultant, I can already sense these questions coming from potential candidates for public office, can’t you?
    After all, do what Trump did, build a base, double down on its biases and warped social goals, and get elected to office by that base. It works.
    Yet, all though Trump to me is the strongest challenge to American democracy that we have ever experienced; as a pollster, I have always believed that you can fool some of the American voters for a while but they will eventually make the right decisions and straighten out their processes and behaviors with certainty and finality. Trump and his allies will soon learn this lesson–this is part of being a democracy.
    So, all of you voters…stay focused…keep the faith, and don’t let this nation down.

    • Peter Harkins

      Ah, Walt,

      You and I are too old. We played with punched cards back in the day.
      We had time to talk (and think) whilst the main frame boiled and bubbled numbers.
      We knew something about sampling. And respondents actually picked up phones(land lines, with dials!) and gave (generally) honest answers. Most folks knew someone who knew more about politics than they did – and they often chatted with them.

      And then education loosened up a bit. No longer was a reasonably thorough survey of US history required at some point in high school, or in the first coupl’a years of college – for those fortunate enough to get at least two or so years post secondary. result: a diminution of shared knowledge of our history as a country, with a fairly complex culture.

      And the furschlucking computers got more powerful. And we lost our primary local sources of political acumen and communication channels became more, much more, ubiquitous. All excuses for relatively shallow thinking. Folks in their 30’s and 40’s now have few internal filters when it comes to face-booking, twittering, imaging … Lead by a POTUS still working his way though the 7th grade.

      I’m not as sanguine as thee regarding our progeny.

      And none of us are talking ’bout, at least at the national level, how short the span has been since the last time we folk targeted each other – a perspective: over the past 8 years I’ve worked with an African-American friend whose father was born in ’98 (that’s 1898). His grandfather was born during the hostilities. Perhaps some old visceral feelings might have colored (sorry ;-)) some of our Republican colleagues’ slothful behavior in DC for eight years? Or rather neanderthal behavior in Raleigh? Just askin’ 🙂

      Uncle Grumpy

      • Walt de Vries, Ph.D.

        Peter, my trusted skeptic and curmudgeon, what a perfect way to start this hot, humid day on the coast. I, too, have despaired that the current generation of voters are not searching their cell phones for news of the day or civics lessons as they stumble along in their prayer-like posture while texting about sex and other stuff we are now too old or unable to participate in. Sob.
        However, since those 1970 days for us, the number and scope of media sources (e.g., cable tv, radio, print and social media) have become so omnipresent that you can’t avoid absorbing some of today’s events. Witness the rapid and consistent decline of Trump’s approval ratings (in relationship to the issues as well) among all demographic groups with the exception of about 25% of the electorate who have never thought about anything unless they were told to do so and they now have to double down to cover their enormous mistake..
        Remember when we polled North Carolina voters in the mid-1970’s and found that even after Watergate, the impeachment threat, and Nixon’s resignation, about 20% of North Carolina voters still thought Tricky Dick was a good, honest president and they would vote for him again if they could.? Trumpgate, although following the same predetermined and disastrous path, will come to a much more rapid conclusion than Watergate, and the voters will do it. Stand by.
        My hope and faith is not in that group of what Hillary called “deplorables.” My optimism is placed in the vast majority (70%)–older folk like you and me–who still believe that an “unexamined life is not worth living.” Peter, old-timer, the righteous shall prevail.
        So, stay in touch,
        and peace, my friend.

  3. Norma Munn

    Sadly, I too agree. Years to recover may be optimistic. We would need the type of people who survived a horrific depression, fought a second WW and addressed at least some aspects of our social ills and failures, albeit incompletely with much left to be done. I wonder if the internet, social media and the overload of stimuli without education will create that kind of person. Economic inequality in this country grew at an astronomical rate before Trump and well ahead of the explosion of social media. Without altering that aspect, I do not believe we can regain our footing.

  4. rick gunter

    Mr. Hill,
    Thank you for your column on the Republicans and our institutions. I could not agree with you more.

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