When I was in high school, I had one particular goal in mind. I had set my heart on a certain position since learning of it in seventh grade. I kept my eye on the prize by knowing exactly when the current office holder would graduate and when I would become eligible. The post required some skill, and my parents hired a teacher. A few pieces of equipment were needed, and I made no secret of my ambition to the faculty sponsor. I also sought advice from someone who had experienced the tryouts, and I prepared for months.
Two days before the tryouts, I was given short notice to get ready, but I was already prepared. I knew what to do, and I was excited to finally prove my ability and earn my spot. However, the tryouts were not held after school as they had been. There was no committee decision involved, as I had been told. Instead, the tryouts would be held in front of the entire organization with only the faculty sponsor to adjudicate. He’d been so encouraging for the past nine months, and that had boosted my confidence. I finished without making a single mistake, and as I stood there waiting, the teacher called up a fellow student.
This fellow student was aware that I would be trying out, but had never given any indication that he even wanted the job. He was quite popular, but a class clown who wants to be accepted will struggle with leadership. He had not prepared for tryouts. In fact, he seemed to be caught off guard. He didn’t even have any equipment and asked to borrow mine. Good manners prevailed, and I handed my things over. He made a sad attempt, and he knew it. Several times he laughed uneasily during the tryout to cover his bungling, and he was coached as to what he should do by the person who would be making the decision. He hung his head in embarrassment when he finished, but he was immediately named to the post.
This was surely how the House Managers felt at the end of the second impeachment trial of the ex-president. Amazing legal skills, hours of preparation, indisputable evidence, yet an embarrassingly disgraceful team of bunglers, unscrupulous backroom dealings, and 47 conservative cowards simply worked in concert to thwart conviction. None of this came as any surprise, but it always hurts when incompetence and dishonesty triumph over those who are most skilled and play by the rules.
And now the fallout. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, the Republican congresswoman whose statement was taken into evidence during the impeachment trial, represents my district. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve written to her several times because she almost always does the wrong thing. I have supported her opponents during every election, and I have looked forward to the day when we could call her “ex-congresswoman.”
She is now disliked by her conservative constituency. I let her know the other day that I appreciated her integrity. While we will never agree on policy, and I resented her condescending reply in 2016 when she had less experience and knowledge of a particular issue than I, I think she has shown a level of decency that is rare among Republicans these days. She stands out as a normal person in a party that is now ruled by Trump and Qanon.
Thousands have recently fled the GOP to become independents. I hesitate to praise the exodus as an indication of integrity among a few conservatives because leaving now doesn’t show as much principle as if one had chosen country over party when Trump was named the 2016 nominee. The point at which people have left the party since 2016 merely indicates their levels of tolerance. Remaining after grabbing genitals, Charlottesville, separating babies from their families at the border, becoming friendly with domestic terrorists, and attempting to justify these activities merely demonstrates what someone can live with.
My neighborhood is heavily Trump. The flags and signs went up in 2016, and while a few came down at key moments when his behavior seemed to have reached its limits, most of the flags and signs popped up again as early as 2018. After the 2020 election, all but a few of the signs remained in place until January 7. It’s clear where these remaining supporters stand.
After the impeachment trial ended, the Aunt Pitty Pat of the Senate, Lindsey Graham, threw down his hand fan and picked up pompons for Trump and said that Trump “owns the party and is the future of the GOP.” Mitch McConnell has said that he will now stand by any candidate who can win. What he means is that he doesn’t care about ethics or sanity. He just wants to be majority leader again so he can say no to everything while suckling on the teat of campaign finance.
Two days after Lindsey Graham was running around with bloomers ablaze over the disgraced 45th president, a Republican strategist (a former McConnell staffer) said that she would never leave the Republican Party because the GOP is the only viable path to defeating Democrats. Winning at any cost and doing nothing after winning has been the Republican strategy for decades, but to wish it so badly as to cling to their four disgraceful years with a promise of continuing down the same path seems unwise. It’s rather foolish to stand inside a burning building as it collapses on itself because it once provided a home. I guess if you’re at home with racism, conspiracy theory, and foreign interference in our government, you can welcome every deplorable faction and grin and bear it while it consumes you.
I’m captivated by the possible gambits as Republicans navigate their civil war. Will the majority eventually excuse the insurrectionists and return to the whining of false equivalencies of the civil rights protests of 2020? Will Cruz and Hawley float to the surface like gaseous dung and compete for the love of Trump’s radicals? Apparently, some Republicans have momentarily sidestepped their problems by making statements on family values while others warn of socialism as if they actually knew the definition.
The audacity of the family values approach makes me chuckle. After five years of hearing about inappropriate touch, porn-star payoffs, extramarital affairs and Franklin Graham leading the march that Trump is God’s man, the Republican Party cannot claim moral superiority over anyone for the next hundred years. I was raised as an evangelical, and to use their lingo when someone has committed an act so egregious as to cause their brethren to stumble (lose faith), conservative Christians have globally “lost their witness”. It’s time for them to be silent and contemplate what they’ve done.
Even after he’s out of office and should be left in the dust as the shattered party regroups, ministers who should be focused on divinity rather than the profane are still hailing Trump. No one should ever listen to a word these heretics say in or out of the pulpit, and for those who keep insisting that God uses all people regardless of their sins, it’s time for them to laud the 42nd president or finally denounce the 45th president and move on.
Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t recognize the Party of Lincoln if he could see it today. His party preserved the Union and established Reconstruction to deal with southern traitors. Nixon welcomed the openly racist into the party, and Reagan brought the tent revivalists into the Big Tent of conservatism. Newt Gingrich’s vitriol and George W. Bush’s lies and incompetence, not to mention his deficit spending, made tatters of conservative policy.
Traditional conservative voters have literally been dying off for decades, and conspiracy nuts and domestic terrorists that have subscribed to a dangerous personality cult are replacing them. Lest anyone think that the MAGA insurrectionists are loyal to any aspect of Republicanism (they don’t even understand Republicanism), the January 6th traitors chanted “Destroy the GOP” while referring to traditional Republicans as RINO (Republicans In Name Only).
I wonder what Republican leadership thinks at this point. We know that Mitch McConnell is backing “electability” in 2022, so he’ll go with whoever can win regardless of the threats to our republic. Does leadership wonder if they should’ve broadened the party 20 years ago by abandoning the culture wars and embracing moderates? Would abandoning the march further and further to the extreme right have allowed them to safeguard the party from the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene?
There are conservatives who say privately that they disagree with her and think she and Trump are terrible, but none have stepped forward to say that she and those like her should be expelled because Ronald Reagan commanded that no conservative is allowed to speak ill of another. Tell that to Matt Gaetz of Florida who went to Wyoming to protest Liz Cheney.
Will Wall Street protect us from the Qanon crazies or will the feces-throwing primates fully take over while Mitch McConnell stands idly by and mumbles platitudes into his drool cup? There is a civil war within the party, and since both sides are the two most uncompromising forces in American politics, they’ll likely limp along until the moderates pass away and the Trump cult gets bored. It seemed like the Lincoln Project might make some inroads, but one of their founders is already in trouble.
There are several ways where they could recover, but proceeding logically would require decades of disciplined thinking and responsible action. I wish them peace, but not success. Conservatism has handicapped the country long enough, and its current incarnation is the most toxic version yet.
However I do believe in one conservative mantra: “You can’t negotiate with terrorists.” It’s time to leave them behind and move forward with bold, left-leaning legislation.
© 2021 by Patrick Brown