Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Struggling to understand GOP cowardice

"Shield with the Face of Medusa" by Arnold Böcklin (Musée d'Orsay)

      Enough about President Donald Trump. I’m sick of him, too. He isn’t conceding. Not today, anyway. He may never concede the election he lost but will be dragged from the White House sobbing and pleading like James Cagney going to the electric chair at the end of “Angels With Dirty Faces,” his hands pried off a radiator.
     Let’s talk instead about the Republicans who support Trump as he tries to overturn an American election. How can they shirk from their sworn duty at this moment of national peril? Is there anything in history to help us understand?
     There’s no trouble finding traitors: Benedict Arnold, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Jonathan Pollard, and of course our current president, catspaw of the Russians, friend of dictators.
     But when reflecting on the moral repugnance of men like Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — four powerful Republican senators who know better, who see what Trump is attempting, yet do nothing, or worse abet him — I search history in vain for similar craven cowardice.
     Literature offers a few: “Lord Jim,” by Joseph Conrad. Jim is a British sailor on the crew of the Patna, a ship on the Red Sea. The ship founders, and the captain and crew — and after some hesitation, Jim — abandon the ship and its 800 Muslim pilgrims.
     Only the Patna doesn’t sink. It’s towed into port, and Jim and his shipmates are publicly vilified. He wanders the world, fleeing his shame. But that’s fiction.
     I turned to Chris Walsh, author of “Cowardice” and director of the College of Arts & Science’s Writing Program at Boston University. So many leaders are hiding from their duty; why am I having trouble finding parallels in history?

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14 comments:

  1. 1. I just don't get why so many in elective office are so scared of losing their jobs, because they oppose drumpf. If they lose, then they become lobbyists & make ten times the money they currently scam from the taxpayers.

    2. "In the movies, maybe. Cagney’s final cowardice is an act. He destroys his own reputation as a tough guy at the request of a priest, to keep admiring street punks from following his example."

    Except that ending was required by the Hays Code, which said that all crooks must repent or die at the end of the movie.

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  2. Those self serving, Republican snakes you mention are acting that way to court Trump's followers and getting ready for the '24 election.

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  3. No doubt every negative appellation one can apply to the politicians who know better is well deserved, but how do we regard the willfully ignorant Trumpsters? Is there any hope that they will wake up to reality some day and accept the judgment that history surely will make of Donald Trump's political career? And for the rest of us, what lesson do we learn from Trump? That the truth doesn't matter? That even in a free market society, some segment (a very large segment indeed) can limit its own access to information such that it will believe every lie and reject every truth available for the asking? That there is no sense in striving for accuracy or honesty, when exaggerations and outright prevarications abound? President Biden has a big job before him to restore credibility to the American government and it seems the coward politicians will try to impede his every step if they think it will benefit them in any way whatsoever.

    john

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  4. They should be stripped like the queen in Game of Throwns and marched down Pennsylvania Ave with a huge crowd shouting Shame

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    1. I would like to see repercussions for both the Trump crime family and for the likes of McConnell, Graham, Rubio, Cruz, et. al. While I'll refrain from chanting "lock him up", prison does not seem to be out of the question for the Grifter-in-Chief.

      That being said, I can very definitely do without seeing any of that crew marching naked down Pennsylvania Avenue, or anywhere else. :)

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  5. " A fear of cowardice is much more powerful than a desire to appear heroic." Professional soldiers know that those who perform heroic acts are more inclined to do so to earn the respect their buddies than out of patriotic sentiments. That's why Army post Vietnam personnel policy has empathized "unit cohesion," keeping infantry squads together over a period of time, something that was interrupted by the rapid troop rotation policies followed in Vietnam. I suppose this is analogous to the behavior of prominent GOP figures, although the difference between an office held and being in an actual line of fire makes it a stretch.

    Tom

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  6. I really didn't imagine the craven cowardice continuing past Trump losing the election. Maybe, just maybe, if he'd been thoroughly thrashed and received only a quarter of the vote, which would have been in line with the approval rating of Nixon at the end of his fiasco, they could have seen their way clear to grudgingly doing the right thing. Amazingly, in this benighted country, he received 73.5 million votes, over 47%. As Neil has pointed out all along, Trump's "success" is just a symptom of much deeper problems in America. Such as people who believe Fox News is actual news, people who believe YouTube crank videos are as valid a source of information as the New York Times, people who are so racist that they revel in seeing racism abetted by the president, and people whose main issue when voting is that the well-being of any fetus is more important than that of tens of thousands of citizens who have died because of a woefully mishandled pandemic.

    Saying the spineless toadies in Washington (albeit U. S. Senators) have sold their souls to the devil for the sake of keeping their own fannies in their seats is trite, but there's no better explanation.

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  7. Love today’s column! You speak many of American’s thoughts. Totally agree when you wrote, “ It would be a shame if they’re forgotten. I’d prefer infamy. I like to imagine these four senators, their heads shaven like women who slept with Nazis in occupied Europe after the war, marched out of Washington past howling, outraged citizens raining spittle upon them.” I am an unusually nice person — why do I like envisioning this so much?!

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  8. Your best column of the last few weeks. (Which is not to say that the other ones were in any way faulty, just that this one really grabbed me.)

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  9. I think of it as a litmus test for the four stooges: McConnell, Graham, Rubio and Cruz to go advise the King Stooge it's over. So far either they have failed or he's just not listening. This is their moment and they don't look too good.

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  10. Someday they’ll deny that they were T&@$’s chumps. Right now it is very clear.

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  11. I wish cowardice was the only reason for our political Limbo. The cowards are intermixed with those who would substitute their own designs for the will of the people, and heroes are not much in evidence.

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  12. It's the new normal. It's not really that new. Much started during Goldwater's rise to power.
    Now the GOP has the power of tunnel vision media and will easily maintain this base of those who follow Trump's "ideology" (i.e. bigotry, ignorance, and greed).
    We all know if a different ideology had the majority of Republicans the likes of Cruz and Rubio would be followers of that. It's about power, not just dinero.

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