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A Party of Cheaters

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This piece has appeared in newspapers in my very red District (VA-06).

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When I was a kid, I spent nearly every moment I could playing sandlot pick-up baseball games with kids in the neighborhood, or the equivalent for football (tackle or touch). I loved the competition, honoring the game by striving to play it as it should be played and — if possible — to win.

But one thing I could not stand was when the guys on the other side would cheat– breaking the rules, or refusing to admit when things didn’t go their way. Who wants to play with someone who shouts “He’s safe!” when their guy was obviously out by a mile?

Respect for the game, to me, always meant competing within the rules and then everyone accepting the outcome, win or lose.

So you can imagine how I’ve felt watching as the Republican Party has become a Party of Cheaters. Time after time, they’ve shown a willingness to cheat if that’s what it takes to win. A few examples:

Voter suppression is one form of cheating. In recent years, all across the nation, this Republican Party passed measures – pretending it’s about preventing voter fraud – to keep vulnerable groups of people from voting. Why cheat this way? Because the Republicans don’t like the way those voters are likely to vote.

That’s not how the game is supposed to be played. We don’t lie to take the franchise away from qualified American citizens. The citizens get to vote, and we all agree to let the electoral chips fall where they may.

Depriving the most vulnerable of what little power they’ve got – given to them, as their right, by the Constitution — is an especially ugly form of cheating– stealing from people to get power these Republicans aren’t entitled to.

(And the Republicans are apparently engaging in this ugly kind of cheating right now in Georgia, North Dakota, and Texas.)

The Republicans’ conduct, since 2009, regarding Obamacare is another illustration of their willingness to run roughshod over the American system.

The Constitution has been set up as a way for Americans to make necessary decisions together. When the struggle to decide has been resolved in accordance with the constitutional system, we move on.

Rarely has a decision been made in such thorough accordance with the rules of the constitutional game as with the enactment of Obamacare.

·         Obama ran for President on the platform of enacting something like Obamacare.

·         The people elected Obama on that basis.

·         The process by which it got fought out in Congress wasn’t pretty, but – played out scrupulously by the rules — Obamacare got passed.

(Additionally, the Affordable Care Act that was enacted was quite mainstream, moderate, and reasonably well-designed. It represented a decision on a big an urgent national problem — because the nation was squandering trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of Americans’ lives every year because of problems in the American health care system — made according to the rules.)

At that point, Americans are supposed to consider the matter settled — at least until the results of that decision have been tried and failed — and to move on.

But not the Party of Cheaters. Not accepting the outcome of the constitutional process, the Republicans have done all they could –at every stage, even up to the present, with Trump administration attempts to undermine the enrollment process — to sabotage what the nation had decided. Even at the cost of depriving millions of Americans of the healthcare security enjoyed by the citizens of every other advanced society. Even at the cost of lives.

(If the Congress declared war, would it be OK for those who voted against the declaration to sabotage the war effort?)

Another major instance of gaining power through cheating involved how the Republicans cheated to steal a Supreme Court seat.

Never before had any Senate done what the Republicans did: explicitly refusing to consider any nominee the President might propose. It was unprecedented because it was indefensible to make “advise and consent” into a tool for outright thievery, a flagrant breach of the clear intent of the Constitution.

And now the cheating is bringing us to a constitutional crisis, as the Republican cheaters in Congress are trying to obstruct the rule of law. Especially in the House, the Republicans have been making altogether spurious attacks on those people who are enforcing the laws of the land—people with great integrity like Mueller and Rosenstein and Jim Comey, Republicans all.

It is cheating for these congressional Republicans to violate their oath of office to defend our constitutional order. And it is cheating of yet another kind to lie to their followers to get them to believe something that is dangerously untrue: this investigation is clearly not a “Witch Hunt.”

While Mueller is trying to enforce the rule of law, the Republicans in Congress and this Republican President are wielding lies to defeat the law by convincing their followers – a good third of the nation – not to believe the truth when Mueller’s report finally delivers it.

As is so often the case in these times, the question arises how to understand the people who support this Party of Cheaters. I’d like to ask them:

Are you cheaters when you play? Do you say “Safe” when you know your man is out? Do you hit below the belt? Do you tip over the poker table if your opponent has the stronger hand? Do you weasel out of your promises? Do you lie to people so they won’t understand what’s really going on?

And if you wouldn’t cheat in your own life, why would you want a Party of Cheaters to run your country?