Will the Republicans break ranks? Will anyone bolt?
That's the question.
Maybe a naive one.
Because up to now, they've been shoulder-to-shoulder, rock solid behind Donald Trump. Despite his continual lies, patent unfitness, vindictive tweets, unpresidential pettiness, coddling of dictators, snubbing of friends, facilitation of racial hate, condescension to minorities, slurring of immigrants....
Well, you get it.
Or you don't.
They sure don't.
Though some seem to think now they will, or might.
I've just been reading the Monday opinion page of the New York Times, where David Leonhardt and Charles M. Blow were in rare unison, almost stereo: this, this is the moment for the scales to fall from GOP eyes, for them to realize who they've been in bed with, and to bolt out with a cry.
"President Trump must go and you—only you—have the power to make it happen," Leonhardt writes, before appealing directly to individual Republican senators to break from the herd and thus redeem themselves from eternal damnation.
"The Republicans in Congress, in the House but particularly in the Senate," writes Blow. "On which side of patriotism will history record them?"
I'm of two minds.
My gut tells me to curl a lip in unrestrained cynicism. "How cute! They actually think that this gang of cowards living in a fear-stoked phantasm for years will suddenly grow spines just because Donald Trump got caught dead-to-rights trading his country's best interest—a militarily robust Ukraine—for petty political advantage."
In what world does that happen? Do politicians risk alienating their base and getting kicked out of office?
I suppose it could happen. And I sincerely believe if one defected half of them would. But fear is a task master. As is the desire to keep your job.
It does sometimes happen.
Funny. I like my job, but I have been willing to quit it, on several occasions. and once took the trouble of expressing my displeasure over a turn of events by finding a new, albeit lower paying job, writing a letter of resignation, and quitting. Another time I threatened to. Because if you have no standards, if you are willing to accept anything, well, then you end up doing just that. Accepting anything. Which explains the Republicans and their president. I can honestly say that I'd be burned at the stake before I'd act the way Mitch McConnell acts. Or Kevin McCarthy. How those men look in the mirror, or hug their children, is a mystery to me. They must live in a bubble of cowardice, delusion and collaboration.
Republicans usually only find their conscience when it's too late. There was former senator Jeff Flake in the Washington Post, urging Congressmen to a courage he toyed with displaying before his popularity tanked.
"My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles," he writes, forgetting that he is Exhibit A in the case for staying mum. Yet I can't dismiss the hope entirely. While I don't feel capable of blowing on the faint spark, I can't mock those who do. It's hard to imagine our country sliding worse and worse toward despotism. Difficult to write off anyone, even a Republican, as immune to the prick of conscience. As beyond redemption. That might be part of what allows Trump to survive up to this point. People just can't quite believe he's happening. Not to compare the two, but that's also how the Holocaust occurred. People just couldn't believe what was happening, not until it was too late.
So no, I don't think we're going to get anything near the end of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," where Sen. Joseph Paine, the corrupt politician played by Claude Rains, tries to shoot himself, and instead confesses to his schemes. Only in a Frank Capra movie. And we are not living in a Frank Capra movie.