Republican Party Set to Pay for Its Long Silence on Donald Trump
Democracies and political parties that surrender to intimidation, reap the scenes of Capitol Hill.
The long knives are out and the ranks of naysayers amongst the proverbial Republican ‘pack’ jettisoning their hitherto undisputed leader, grows silently but surely. Just a couple of months back, Donald Trump, rode the tiger of approval in his partisan primaries with a thumping 93.99% approval (his nearest competitor, Bill Weld had managed a measly 2.35%).
Many prominent Republicans had forewarned of the looming dangers as early as the 2016 Presidential election, including the former US Presidents’ Bush (Senior & Junior); Former Secretaries of State Colin Powel, Condoleezza Rice etc; Former Governors Mitt Romney, Arnold Schwarzenegger etc; and revered Warrior-Senators like John McCain. It all paled in front of the revisionist, nativist and ‘score-settling’ appeal of Donald Trump.
Since these warnings emanated from ‘formers’ or ‘also rans’, who were therefore electorally irrelevant, the cautions of sanity were drowned in the more appealing throes of hate and supremacy.
Republican Party’s Split in the times of Lincoln, Nixon, and Trump
The Whig Party (precursor to the Republican Party) which had split in 1850’s had had a progressive side that elected Abraham Lincoln four years after that split, and a regressive pro-slavery side that seemed to have again resurfaced with the Donald Trump’s Phoenix-like rise with his band of ‘rednecks’.
Even in more recent times, the Republican Party had a similar sinking phenomenon of the initially intimidating, then sudden downfall, followed by the mass exodus of internal support for its leader, in Richard Nixon.
Though substantially less egregious than the recent Trump misdemeanours, when Watergate scandal blew in the face of Nixon administration’s efforts to manipulate elections – Nixon realised that he had zero partisan support and that his impeachment was imminent, he resigned in public disgrace. The immediacy and pervasiveness of the Republican introspection and correction that followed Nixon’s exposé, was not seen in the case of Donald Trump, who is clearly cut from a much thicker cloth, one that is far coarser. In an eerily familiar expression, Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, had said on his oath of office, ‘My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.’
Slide of Republicanism into Trumpism
One person who had made an impassioned bid to awaken the Republicans’ zombie-like drift towards Donald Trump was his vanquished opponent, Bill Weld. The Harvard-Oxford graduate had been a successful Governor, Attorney, and an author, before he had internally challenged Donald Trump. More importantly, he had begun his legal career as a junior counsel on the US House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry staff in 1974, enquiring into Richard Nixon. This gave him firsthand insight into fellow-Republican’s machinations and the dangers it posed.
Later, Bill’s constitutional sensitivity was further honed when he contributed to the bipartisan committee devising the report, Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment. The prescient man could recognise the slide of hallowed Republicanism into the heady and seedy cult of Trumpism, something that even the disgraced Nixon had not achieved.
But Bill was helpless against Donald Trump’s big dog whistle campaign that was invoking, harnessing and nurturing the worst societal instincts, without bothering about the long term consequences—the Republican masses were seduced by the actualities of Make America Great, where even the deliberate images of neo-Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell, were par for course!
Politics of Fear Led to Storming of Capitol Hill
Bob Woodward’s book Fear:Trump in the White House had a telling statement attributed to Donald Trump, ‘The most important thing is to be feared’ – and like all bullies, Donald Trump drove that fear into all contrarian voices within his Republican party, and not too many had dissented openly.
When Bill Weld was queried about the deafening silence from within the Republican Party, even when Presidential matters were hitting new lows, he had said, “There’s too much pretending going on in [Republican] Washington DC. That’s the nub of the problem. Everyone’s pretending that the president—he’s just a little different. They’re indulging him in his malignant narcissism. A malignant narcissist is someone who’s only happy when other people are losing”.
But when Trump himself lost at the electoral hustings; it was his time to be unhappy—the problem was in the expression of the same. The genie of the Trump formula had been unleashed and practiced to the hilt, and there was no question of rebottling that genie of hate and divides, not that it was the intent either.
Consequently after 1814, the Capitol Hill was stormed yet again, this time by die-hard Trump supporter who led the ‘insurrection’, ‘coup’ or even ‘revolution’, as self-described by a crazed Trump vigilante.
Are Republicans Coming Back to Their Senses?
While Vice President Mike Pence may have salvaged his residual life in the post-Trump era, he too was not spared the infamous Trump whiplash, but importantly wisdom dawned on Mike Pence, rather late. It was left to the ignored voices of the Republicans like Mitt Romney to candidly and coldly slam, ‘selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning. What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.’
Now, the domino effect has started, and Donald Trump’s Republican entourage has shrunk dramatically, the Republicans are acquiescing to constitutional rationality and reality with their telling silences—just as they had allowed the phenomenon of Donald Trump to hijack the party of Abraham Lincoln, initially.
Some are acting as if they have just been awoken from a bad dream and that the nightmare is finally over, but the introspection within the Grand Old Party ought to be on the shameful surrender of its material rank and file of the Republicans, till the very last moment.
Too Little, Too Late?
What justified the internal paralysis, fear and compromise? Why was Bill Weld, who had forewarned about Trump, shamed with an embarrassing 2.35% endorsement? Bill Weld had passionately goaded Republicans, “We can’t gently go into that good night. You know? And I am going to rage against the dying of the light”. He did exactly that, but he was also in the company of sheep.
Decades earlier, Bill Weld had written a fiction Mackerel by Moonlight, in which he described a serendipitous situation, “They turned around like deer in the headlights. Deer who had also been shot”. Decades later, Republican leadership was that deer. Much more than Donald Trump himself, the complicity by way of silence by the Republican Party till the very last minute is responsible for the current chaos. Democracies and political parties that surrender to intimidation, reap the scenes of Capitol Hill—often without the same, still-positive result.
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