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Partisanship in the Extreme

Photograph Source thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Is there some point in time when elected Republican officials will say ‘enough’? Is there any boundary that their beloved president, Donald Trump, can cross that will be the last straw on the back of the much-overburdened camel? Is there absolutely nothing he can say or do that will tarnish their willingness to look the other way?

This isn’t a new dilemma. During the campaign, Trump disparaged women, Mexicans, Muslims, gays, the poor, the handicapped and just about everyone who wasn’t white. Since his election, he hasn’t stopped, but has praised racists, filled his cabinet with the super-rich, several of whom have resigned in disgrace, and alienated many of the country’s oldest and strongest allies.

He has relaxed laws protecting waterways and air, weakened protection for sexual assault victims on campus, and proclaimed that a free press (not that the U.S. has one, but that’s a topic for another essay) is the enemy of the people.

Now, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been convicted of eight felonies, and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, a man who once said he’d take a bullet for Trump, has confessed to eight of his own. This includes misuse of campaign funds to pay off women who ‘allegedly’ (Nod! Nod! Wink! Wink!) had affairs with Trump.

This is the man that most, but not all, Republican officials praise and defend.

Is that not bizarre? How would you react, if your next-door neighbor was a loud mouth, arrogant, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic misogynist? Would you be comfortable if convicted felons were visiting his home day and night? Would you not worry about your safety, let alone your peace of mind?

But for Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives, this is all just fine. A spokesperson for that most illustrious Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said this: “We are aware of Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea to these serious charges. We will need more information than is currently available at this point.” It seems to this writer that there is certainly sufficient information to make a more definite statement than that.

Senator Lindsay Graham, R-SC, dropped this pearl of wisdom:  “The American legal system is working its will in both the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen cases”. This seems to be a strange choice of words; perhaps working its way, or working as it is meant to, but working its ‘will’ does put an odd connotation on it. But that is neither here nor there; the main point is that neither of these august politicians mentioned Trump.

Partisanship is a hallmark of U.S. governance. Often, when a major bill passes, it is said to be a ‘victory’ for the president, or the party that rammed it through. Never is it said to be a victory for the citizenry. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed into law on March 23, 2010, it was pronounced a major victory for President Obama. There was little mention of how this was a victory for over 20 million U.S. citizens who were previously without health care.

The recent tax bill, a major giveaway to the rich, was viewed as a victory not only for Trump, but for Ryan also, since enactment of a tax law to screw the poor, squeeze the middle class and shower treasures on the rich was long a goal of his. It wasn’t proclaimed a stunning defeat for the common man and woman; the fact that a difficult bill passed, regardless of its merits (or lack thereof), was a great victory for the Republicans.

This is U.S. governance; not Monday Night Football. In the latter instance, it’s fine (although perhaps a tad bizarre) to pick a side, and cheer and shout at the television screen as one’s selected team gains yardage or makes a touchdown. Your side can be praised to the skies, while the opponent is vilified, because it doesn’t matter. At the end of the season, one team will win the Super Bowl, and the winning quarterback will make millions more than he’s already earned. Big deal.

But running a country is not playing a football game; there are serious consequences within the country, and around the world. One Party doesn’t ‘win’ as the other ‘loses’; they are, in theory, people voted into office to represent constituents with differing philosophies on how life should be. It is their responsibility to work together to reach compromise on many topics, and to unite to defend the ‘sacred’ Constitution. So when the Supreme Court says, for example, that marriage equality must be the law of the land, these politicians might say that they disagree with it, but must uphold it nonetheless.

Also, while football fans can criticize and disparage the fans of other teams, this is not an option for elected officials. Republicans and Democrats might respectfully disagree with each other; but name-calling and juvenile criticisms have no place in the White House or the hallowed halls of Congress.

We could take the time and space to list the many, many names Trump has called his opponents, but we will not; suffice it to say that saying other politicians have low IQs; calling former aides ‘dogs’, or referring to a U.S. senator as ‘Pocahontas’ are simply not acceptable.

Yet while Trump runs amok on the world stage, slowly descending into apparent madness, ‘tweeting’ his wrath on an almost-daily basis, his fawning minions in Congress either look the other way, or jump on his bandwagon, oblivious to the fact that the wheels are all loose and a major crash seems to be in the offing.

It is beyond terrifying to think that this is the most powerful country in the world, one whose power and influence are waning, making it all the more dangerous. While it is horrifying to think of what Trump has said and done to date, it is chilling to think that he acts with near impunity, and to imagine what Congress and the yes-men and women who surround him might allow, considering all they have condoned thus far.

Mid-term elections are a scant three months away, but they will be, as always, nearly meaningless. Democrats may win; they will verbally criticize Trump, but support every war, every tax bill and every sanction he proposes, all to the detriment of the U.S. and the world.

This is the much-vaunted ‘land of the free and home of the brave’; a more honest assessment would call it an oligarchy, the land for the rich and the home of the oppressor.

 

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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