Opinion, Politics

THE PRICE OF POPULARITY IN POLITICS

The members of Congress who have not disavowed Trump are actively cosigning on everything he does.


On Friday, the New York Times news podcast The Daily – posted an episode that centered on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and his criticism of President Donald Trump, as well as Trump’s open rooting for Flake’s defeat from public office in a 2018 race.

In Trump’s Phoenix rally, he ranted against the state’s two Republican senators – John McCain and Jeff Flake – of course, refusing to mention them by name as an attempt at…coyness? Trump’s anger towards Flake stems from the Arizona senator’s new book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. The book takes aim at the Republican Party with a plea to return to its bedrock politics, which are directly at odds with a Trump presidency.

Because of this, Trump has attacked Flake both in speeches and on Twitter, for being “weak” on immigration and crime, and openly encouraging his defeat at the hands of opponent, Dr. Kelli Ward. Ward is self-identified as standing with Trump and seeking to “make Arizona great again.” Trump also railed against the “one vote” that stopped the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a thinly-veiled attack at John McCain whose vote, alongside Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), prevented the Senate Republicans from passing the repeal.

Trump has also been spending his weekend on Twitter attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) for not getting the repeal through and giving a (to say the least) controversial pardon to Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who was accused of intense racial profiling in his arrests, failure to investigate instances of sex crimes, misuse of funds and abuse of power.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, with its peaks and valleys of scandal, there have been thinkpieces of “When will it be enough for the GOP?”, reports of congressional Republicans quietly and privately disavowing Trump but doing nothing publicly, and Republicans like Paul Ryan who gently disagree with Trump but go no further.

Through it all, the overwhelming question is “What’s the tipping point?”

Flake is one of the first instances of congressional Republicans with vulnerabilities going outright against Donald Trump. There are peers like McCain and Lindsay Graham, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Senators Murkowski and Collins, but there are few who have the vulnerability of a 2018 race speaking out against Trump.

And with every horrific thing that happens, every blunder and every assault Trump carries out, the members of Congress who have not disavowed him are actively cosigning on everything he does.

Trump holds no loyalty to the Republican Party. He has been a Democrat, an Independent, a Reform, and a Republican. He actively goes after members of his own party as viciously as he goes after Democrats, often more so. He goes after anyone who does not offer sycophantic praise of him.

I understand that politics is more complex than I will ever be able to comprehend; I understand that we exist in a democracy and standing up against the president has consequences. But qualifying Trump’s actions is simple; it is agreeing with him. And if you were elected to serve, then serve.

Even if Republicans speak up after this point, what that only means is that they were agreeable with – or at least okay with – everything that’s happened up to this point. His multi-varied responses to Charlottesville, his pardoning of Joe Arpaio, his ban of transgender individuals serving in the military, his Russia connections, and the thousands of other things that have happened since he was sworn in.

It’s not enough to assuage yourself by thinking that you’re not actively abetting him. At least you’re not Kellyanne Conway, or Pence or Bannon or Gorka or Huckabee Sanders, right? At least you’re not actively helping him. But the active, hateful minority are not the sole reason why dictators and demagogues manage to accomplish so much. It’s because of the passive masses, who comfort themselves with the fact that they’re not (at least) the worst.

He is not of your party – he is not loyal to you, even if you are loyal to him. You, congressional Republicans, are as much pawns to him as we are – Democrats, immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, women, people of color. Allying yourself with him, passively standing alongside him, is actively cosigning his rule, his actions and his beliefs.

Now is not the time to tell reporters off the record that you disagree with Trump. Now is not the time to waffle around what he says, or to ignore it. Now is the time to do the hard thing, the thing you were elected to do. If you wanted to be popular, then you probably shouldn’t have gone into politics.

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