The American Republic is under serious threat. With each passing day, Donald Trump, the Trump kakistocracy, and its Republican co-conspirators are taking measures to undermine the basic fabric of American democracy — from shredding political norms, to paths to undermine free elections, to campaign finance abuses, to attacking core institutions, to treating Donald Trump as autocrat-in-chief.
Amid the media enabling of the GOP’s erosion (more accurately, deliberate destruction) of the nation’s democracy, one problem the elevation of Republican Democracy Peacocks into some form of respectable “moderate” voice and ‘courageous’ Republicans fighting Trump weakens the hope for actually turning toward paths toward addressing the damage that Republicans putting party (and now Dear Leader Donald in a cult of personality) before nation.
Retiring Senator Jeff Flake has been all so courageous in books and editorials. Peruse his twitter account and you will find items like statements of painful, principled outrage like
Fellow Republicans, this is not who we are. This cannot be our party. https://t.co/xkGMYfoR9w
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) June 10, 2018
Maine’s Susan Collins drips with similar courage as she defends Canada.
Many border communities are truly intertwined. Canadian nurses, for example, cross the border every day to work in Maine hospitals. A Madawaska, Maine, mill pumps pulp from the Canadian side of the border to be made into paper on the US side. We must preserve this friendship. 2/2
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) June 10, 2018
The problem is that Flake, Collins, and their ilk are far from profiles in courage when it comes to defending America’s norms, its alliances, its democracy. They are, instead, Democracy Peacocks: showy, flowerly language that masks their inaction and, in fact, complicity in the crimes and outrages that are occurring literally multiple times per day.
To understand the term, perhaps best to go to discussions about Climate Peacocks:
Peacocks, of course, are birds known for fanning out their impressive tail feathers to look big and tough, but it’s all a phony act.Hiding behind the peacock’s showy display is a terribly scared bird. (I guess it’s fitting that they are related to the chicken. And by all appearances they are birds with exceedingly small brain size to body ratios.)
Climate Peacocks, of course, are all talk. They puff up their feathers with bluff and bluster, saying they want to fight climate change and build a clean energy economy, but they consistently fail to vote for climate and energy policy, therefore becoming big roadblocks to progress.
Republican politicians like Flake and Collins preen their feathers with outraged commentary — tweets, articles, talk show lines, books — about how Trump has done this wrong when it comes to allies, that Trump’s language crosses lines, that Trump somehow isn’t their Republican Party and ‘we’ can do better, etc … However, when it comes down to it, what are these Democracy Peacocks doing to defend Democracy? Are they voting against Trump appointees like Pruitt who run roughshod over the concept of a rule of law while taking steps to undermine all Americans? Are they voting to halt all legislative activity until actual oversight begins in the House and Senate? Are they …. well, are they actually upholding their obligations to “support and defend the Constitution“?
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt captures it well
Very nearly every elected member of the Republican Congress has chosen Trump and party over our country. It is shameful. They have embraced illiberalism, assaults on the rule of law, attacks on objective truth and staggering corruption. They betray their oaths with complicity
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 10, 2018
Democracy Peacocks like Flake and Collins do not merit praise for courage or standing up to Trump until — unless — they put substance to go with flowery words.
Sarah Kendzior is right when it comes to Flake:
If your words are not matched in deeds, this is exactly who you are.
You can't just say you're "better than this". You have to actually DO something. Like, for example, your job. https://t.co/tpJEDOmaco
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) June 10, 2018
Brian Fallon is right when it comes to Collins.
Get off Twitter and take some kind of offline action to preserve our fraying alliances, Susan Collins. You are a sitting senator and the 51st vote on anything Trump might want to enact in the Senatehttps://t.co/dSh9BAkQv1
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) June 11, 2018
As to the media complicity with the Trump kakistocracy and Cult of Personality, it is well past time to stop praising tweets as heroism and hold Republican politicians to account for actions to provide substance to their rhetoric.