Home National Politics No Profiles in Courage (My Latest Challenge to the Conservatives)

No Profiles in Courage (My Latest Challenge to the Conservatives)

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This piece ran last week in newspapers in my very red congressional district (VA-06)

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This time, I’d like to talk not about the Republican voters, whose support for this President I ponder literally every day, but rather about the Republicans in Washington. I see an important difference between those two levels of the Party.

While most Republican voters apparently actually approve of Trump, we have strong reasons to infer that most of the Republicans in Washington – who have a much clearer picture of what’s going on — recognize Trump for the threat to America that he is.

We can infer this from three sets of evidence publicly available:

  • From how many of those Republicans who are retiring from office have expressed deep concern about Trump’s presidency. They show us what Republicans who feel free to speak truthfully believe.
  • From what those same retiring Republicans (confirmed by journalists) have told us about how their fellow congressional Republicans privately express the same concerns.
  • From the way some of Trump’s most important appointees – like his choice for Secretary of State, his current Chief of Staff, and his recent National Security Advisor – are reliably reported to have exclaimed that President Trump is a “moron” or an “idiot” (again, only privately), and from how others within Trumpworld have leaked appalling tales about this President.

It seems safe to assume, therefore, that many Republicans in Congress perceive how unfit Trump is for the presidency, and what dangers to the nation are posed by having such a man wielding the powers of the President of the United States.

It is important – for the good of the nation — for the Republican base to understand about Trump what some of their Republican leaders recognize to be true. But not one of these elected Republicans has done the heroic thing: telling their voters about this threat, despite their people not wanting to hear it.

Such heroism would be political suicide. It would be like jumping on a grenade to save your buddies.

But most people are not heroes, and most politicians, most of the time, put their own political survival at or near the top of their priorities. So it’s not surprising that most of them will keep their thoughts to themselves rather than doing the heroic thing.

In addition, some of those who do see a threat might not see how profoundly wrong and dangerous this Trump presidency is. (And thus don’t see the stakes as high enough to warrant self-sacrifice.)

It’s one thing to see that Trump is unfit. It is a bigger thing to recognize that Trump poses the greatest threat to the American constitutional order since the Civil War, and that Trump’s penchant for breaking up good stuff is inflicting damage onto each system he touches: the rule of law, the beneficial international system in which we served as leader of the free world, our civic discourse.

But again, we have good reason to assume that there will be at least some elected Republicans who do recognize the magnitude of the danger.

We can infer that from the fact that there are a number of life-long, conservative Republicans – not in elective office — who do see in full Trump’s corruption, criminality, and assault on the rule of law: people like Steve Schmidt, who played a major role in the 2008 McCain campaign; David Frum, speech-writer for President George W. Bush; Jennifer Rubin, writer of the conservative “Right Turn” column in the Washington Post (and many others who are not in office).

If conservative Republicans like these see that Trump has created a genuine national crisis, and is inflicting a serious and ongoing national self-inflicted wound, surely there must be some Republicans in Congress who recognize it, too.

So assuming that there are at least some congressional Republicans that understand the national crisis Trump’s presidency has forced upon us, it must be considered remarkable that not a single one of these Republicans has arisen to play the important heroic role historic role America needs someone to play in this dangerous time of the Trump presidency.

Yes, heroism is rare. (JFK, in his 1957 book Profiles in Courage, showcased but eight senators from the previous roughly century and a half of American history.) If it were commonplace, it wouldn’t be heroic.

But even if most soldiers don’t dive onto a grenade to protect their buddies, some do.

But we come back to this: not one among these Republicans, giving up his political life in order to serve something more important than himself.

No profile in courage. No voice of righteousness.

I am put in mind of Genesis, 18:23-32, where Abraham persuades the Lord that if enough righteous people can be found in Sodom, the city should be spared. The number they arrive at is 10. (But of course it turns out that not even that much righteousness can be found, and so God rains down fire and brimstone to destroy the city.)

So here we have a Republican Party in which – tellingly — we find not a single righteous hero.  It is a sign of a Party in which putting Party ahead of nation has been the practice for so long it has become a moral habit.

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Andy Schmookler – a prize-winning author who was the Democratic nominee for Congress in VA-06 – has written most recently a series titled “Press the Battle: Fighting for the Soul of America(ns),” at http://abetterhumanstory.org/press-the-battle/ .