The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 was a turning point in our history and brought into government a phalanx of ideological conservatives. Reagan’s foot soldiers would be the Generals in the Gingrich Revolution a decade later, as Republicans took control of Congress for the first time in forty years.
While the conservative Reagan was very much a pragmatist who would work with Democrats, his disciples were the exact opposite – gleefully shutting the Government down under President Clinton and seeking impeachment, in the words of Newt Gingrich, “because we can.”
In 2009, as Barack Obama came into office with the economy teetering on the brink of depression, Republicans chose party over country and sought to block practically every initiative of the new administration. This included the Obama stimulus proposal, which economists widely credit with bringing unemployment down, that passed with only three Republican votes.
Congressional Republicans simply refused to accept the legitimacy of the first African-American President, from Rep. Joe Wilson‘s interrupting President Obama during a 2009 address to Congress to shout, “You Lie”, to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to even consider the President’s final Supreme Court nominee in 2016.
In the last two years, however, we have seen this escalate from rank partisanship to outright abandonment of constitutional principles and the national interest. When the integrity of our elections were under enemy attack, McConnell ignored President Obama’s call for a bipartisan response and warned the President that Republicans would attack Obama if he went public before the election. Since then, the Republicans have largely been silent about doing anything to prevent the very same thing from happening in 2018 since that would only highlight their tainted victory in 2016.
With control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Republicans have made it clear that the government is not there to serve the people but instead is being hijacked to solely benefit the Republican base and states. It is not just that they ignored public opinion to pursue repeal of Obamacare (when it would result in over 20 million Americans losing coverage and over 200,000 deaths over the decade), but they were willing to tailor the repeal to protect certain Republican states from its devastating impact to secure its passage.
The “tax reform” legislation is no different. The current tax proposal would spike the deficit for little economic benefit other than rewarding the Republican’s wealthy donors. What is striking is that the Trump proposal seeks to pay for this cash giveaway to the rich by taxing Democratic states more by eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes.
This party pledges allegiance only to the Republican States of America. Look at President Trump’s indifference to Puerto Rico or the fact that only one of California’s 14 House Republicans would join Governor Brown’s request last week for federal aid following the recent wildfires in Northern California.
It is the Republicans’ abandonment of shared constitutional principles that is most troubling, since that is what defines and unites us as a country. Save for a few retiring Republicans, the party has been silent as President Trump has threatened a free and independent press; sought to obstruct the investigation into potential collusion with the Russian government; called for the Justice Department to investigate his political enemies; flaunted the Emoluments Clause by failing to separate his business affairs as he openly promotes Trump properties as President; and set up a bogus voter fraud commission ostensibly to justify increased efforts to suppress minority voting.
Even worse, Republicans are supporting the Senate candidacy of Judge Roy Moore who flat out rejects the separation of church and argues that the purpose of the First Amendment was, instead, to “foster religion and foster Christianity.” Moore is not just a theocrat who believes that 9-11 was divine retribution, he is also a genuine bigot. Moore is a birther who believes homosexuality should be a crime and that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in the United States Congress. He also has contempt for the rule of law, having twice been removed as Chief Justice for refusing to abide federal court rulings.
Moore, like Trump, espouses a tribal, nativist vision of America that not only is antithetical to the Constitution but which was resoundingly defeated on the battlefield during the Civil War.
The fact remains that, with its ostrich approach to Russian interference and Trump’s abuses of power along with their endorsement of Judge Moore, the Republicans are standing with two of this nation’s greatest enemies – the Russians and the Confederacy. In doing so, they have essentially become a modern-day Vichy government, at war with fundamental American values.