Bullying Standard Practice for Right-wing Republicans

“Bullies are always to be found where there are cowards.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Bullying seems to be the common denominator in the Republican Party, from a former president on down to GOP-led state governments that have been restricting voting rights.

The majority in this country of endless political wars and congressional gridlock between two major parties is being held hostage by minority conservative Republicans whose biggest moral crime is helping to delude tens of millions of people into believing Donald Trump won the election, a Big Lie; there’s no shame among them telling it.

The tragedy is this minority is slavishly following Trump, probably America’s No.1 bully, negatively impacting not only our country but allies and others who question what has become of the world’s beacon of light and hope. We’re not really back.

The leaders promoting this insidious fairy tale are educated people, many elected officials, members of Congress, no less, who should know better. They aren’t a fringe outfit like White supremacists. Their senior positions of authority in society makes them no better than bullies when they portray Trump as a political hero instead of ostracizing him for his defiance of laws, traditions and ethical behavior.

Their failure to rein in an obviously dangerous expresident is not only a failure of personal responsibility and of conscience but an abysmal failure to obey their oaths of office in which they pledged to uphold the Constitution. The oath of senators also includes swearing to defend our guiding document “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Underscore and italicize the word “domestic,” which includes the president.

As an example of the behavior of the perennially lying, unhinged individual who has been impeached twice but nevertheless followed like the Pied Piper, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report last week detailing how Trump relentlessly pressured the Justice Department to overturn the election results on the basis of his false claims of fraud.

He eventually backed off because of threatened mass resignations by Justice Department personnel if he fired acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and replaced him with a loyalist in a complicated plot to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. He also was persuaded during a three-hour White House meeting that the plot wouldn’t work.

Republicans, of course, downplayed these disclosures, but The Washington Post said in an editorial Sunday that Trump “was trying to hold on to power against the wishes of the American people, based on widely debunked mistruths about the 2020 vote. Anyone seeking to play down that fact today is complicit in his plot to undermine the U.S. democracy.”

That would include Republicans in Congress.

In his new book, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump “a petulant child,” “weak” with an “unbalanced mentality,” according to a review by the PostThe book is “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.”

That’s mindful of the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which stands at 100 seconds to midnight to symbolic doom.

“We came so close to losing our democracy,” wrote Schiff, who took the lead in managing Trump’s first impeachment trial. “The system held, if barely.”

With Republicans manipulating election procedures in some states, gerrymandering districts in their favor, getting Trump loyalists in positions who could control elections, losing our democracy seems quite possible. A crowd said to be in the thousands chanted “Trump won! Trump won! Trump won!” at a Trump rally in Iowa Saturday, the Associated Press reported. “He did. He did. Thank you,” Trump responded.

Trump lied to the crowd that he beat Biden in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

“Millions of Americans have been sold a fraud that the election was stolen,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. “Republicans have a duty to tell the American people that this is not true. Perpetuating the big lie is an attack on the core of our constitutional republic.”

And many of them have not fulfilled that duty.

This is the lie Democrats and the country face come next year’s midterm elections and, entirely possible, in 2024.

Another example of bullying is how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky blackmailed the Democratic majority by refusing at first to raise the debt ceiling, a gambit he’s played and lost before. That’s until President Joe Biden raised the “possibility” of ending the filibuster rule so the Democrats could increase it themselves.

Without the filibuster, the Republicans would lose the 60 votes needed to pass legislation – meaning only a majority would be necessary for passage of any bill. The Democrats have that majority now.

McConnell immediately backed off and agreed to push the debt ceiling increase to early December. He’s against raising it because he opposes Biden’s $4 trillion agenda. But he lies because it has nothing to do with that agenda and everything to do with paying the bills incurred during the Trump administration.

The same fight over whether the government will be able to pay its bills, which has implications globally and for the onset of a recession, will be fought in December. More gridlock.

The incident is a good illustration of the need to get tough with the Republicans every time they pull one of their anti-democratic stunts to try to get their way. Time was when raising the debt ceiling was a trouble-free routine bipartisan exercise. But it’s become weaponized, a bully tool.

But no sooner than a day later McConnell asserted in a letter to Biden that the Republicans won’t help raise the debt ceiling in December.

The Democrats need to eliminate the filibuster and the need to vote on raising the debt ceiling.

By ending the filibuster, the Democrats could vote to adopt the two House-passed pieces of legislation overriding the state restrictions on voting. Those limitations bully not only the Democratic Party but those who vote for it. They need to do this while they still command a Senate majority, which may not last into 2023.


Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.