Repub­li­cans have be­come the ‘burn it all down’ party

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - MONA CHAREN @monacharen­EPPC

My friend David French, one of the most ad­mirable voices in Amer­ica to­day, ar­gues that con­ser­va­tives need not vote against Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­dates in or­der to send a mes­sage about Trump­ism.

I dis­agree.

He writes, “A rage, fury, and a ‘burn it all down’ men­tal­ity is one of the mal­adies that brought us to the present mo­ment.”

This as­sumes that the rea­son some plan to evict Repub­li­can se­na­tors is sim­ply a mat­ter of anger. But vot­ing against a can­di­date or even a whole party is not ni­hilism. It’s the le­gal, con­sti­tu­tional way to ex­press ap­proval or dis­ap­proval. The cur­rent Repub­li­can

Party has cho­sen to be­come the burn-it-all­down party. The most de­mor­al­iz­ing as­pect of the past four years has not been that a boob con­man was elected pres­i­dent, but that one of the two great po­lit­i­cal par­ties sur­ren­dered to him ut­terly.

David sug­gests that vot­ing against Repub­li­can se­na­tors ig­nores that they had bad choices.

It’s cer­tainly true that Repub­li­cans per­ceived their op­tions to be lim­ited. If they speak up, they say, they will flush their ca­reers down the drain. Look at what hap­pened to Jeff Flake, Mark San­ford and Bob Corker!

But this over­states things. A num­ber of Repub­li­cans have stood up to Trump and main­tained their elec­toral vi­a­bil­ity — es­pe­cially when they chal­lenged him on mat­ters in which he has shown lit­tle in­ter­est, namely public pol­icy. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn­syl­va­nia, for ex­am­ple, voted against the pres­i­dent’s USMCA trade agree­ment and (gasp) wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Jour­nal ex­plain­ing his rea­son­ing.

When the pres­i­dent abruptly an­nounced, fol­low­ing a phone call with Turk­ish leader Re­cep Er­do­gan, that he was with­draw­ing Amer­i­can troops forth­with from Syria, a num­ber of Repub­li­cans voiced hor­ror. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Ne­braska, said it would lead to a “slaugh­ter.” Sen. Ted Cruz said it would be “DIS­GRACE­FUL.” Rep. Liz Cheney called it a “cat­a­strophic mis­take that puts our gains against ISIS at risk and threat­ens Amer­ica’s na­tional se­cu­rity.” Se­na­tors Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-South Carolina; Mitch Mc­Connell, R-Ken­tucky; Mitt Rom­ney, R-Utah; Marco Ru­bio, R-Florida; for­mer United Na­tions Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley and oth­ers weighed in, as well.

When the pres­i­dent sug­gested lift­ing sanc­tions on Rus­sia, Sen. Rob Port­man, R-Ohio, said it would be “hor­ri­ble” for the United States. And af­ter Gen. James Mat­tis wrote an op-ed say­ing that Don­ald Trump was mak­ing a “mock­ery of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said, “I was re­ally thank­ful. I thought Gen­eral Mat­tis’ words were true, and hon­est and nec­es­sary and over­due.”

So, it is pos­si­ble to speak up about this pres­i­dent and sur­vive. I use that word ad­vis­edly be­cause th­ese Repub­li­can of­fice­hold­ers of­ten use words like “kill” or “de­stroy” or “an­ni­hi­late” when con­tem­plat­ing what Trump would do to them if they raise their heads too far above the para­pet. In fact, all that ac­tu­ally threat­ened them was the pos­si­bil­ity of nasty tweets and the chance that they might lose their seats.

David is right that very few peo­ple in any walk of life dis­play courage on any­thing, though craven Repub­li­cans hold­ing House and Se­nate posts might want to pause from time to time to con­tem­plate the ex­tra­or­di­nary valor of pro­test­ers in Hong Kong, Iran and Egypt who con­tinue to put their free­dom and some­times their lives at risk by tak­ing to the streets. And should be­ing an elected of­fi­cial re­ally be one’s “life work”?

As noted above, Repub­li­cans have crit­i­cized the pres­i­dent on pol­icy mat­ters, some­times even harshly. Where they have shrunk into their shells was on mat­ters that are even more crit­i­cal to the health of our repub­lic. They have, by their si­lence, given assent to his cru­elty, his as­saults on truth, his dan­ger­ous flir­ta­tions with po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence and his con­sis­tent de­mo­li­tion of in­sti­tu­tions.

In­sti­tu­tions are like scaf­fold­ing. When a so­ci­ety’s in­sti­tu­tions are weak­ened, the whole ed­i­fice can come crash­ing down.

Don­ald Trump un­der­mined the in­sti­tu­tion of the free press, urg­ing his fol­low­ers to dis­be­lieve ev­ery­thing ex­cept what came from the leader. He weak­ened re­spect for law en­force­ment and the courts, sug­gest­ing that he was the vic­tim of a “deep state” and that “so-called judges” need not be re­spected. He scorned al­lies and toad­ied to dic­ta­tors. He has cast doubt on the in­tegrity of elec­tions. He ran the ex­ec­u­tive branch like a gang­ster, de­mand­ing per­sonal loy­alty and abus­ing of­fi­cials such as the hap­less Jeff Ses­sions, who merely fol­lowed ethics rules. He ig­nored the law to get his way on the border wall. He vi­o­lated the most sa­cred norms of a mul­ti­eth­nic so­ci­ety by en­cour­ag­ing racial ha­tred. He made the U.S. guilty of sep­a­rat­ing ba­bies from their mothers.

Elected of­fi­cials, ter­ri­fied of their own con­stituents, have cow­ered and tem­po­rized in the face of a truly un­prece­dented as­sault on demo­cratic val­ues. They be­lieved that they were pow­er­less and acted ac­cord­ingly.

Since they were pow­er­less when it counted, per­haps we should make it of­fi­cial?

EVAN VUCCI/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is en­abled by Repub­li­cans who won’t stand up to his un­prece­dented as­sault on demo­cratic val­ues, writes Mona Charen.

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