Merritt Davis
Contributing Columnist
Insufficient courage on the part of Congressional Republicans will leave America subject to the irrationality and crude cruelty of Donald Trump indefinitely. No impeachment. No removal by the 25th Amendment.
Provided the president does not blunder or Tweet his way into a nuclear war, the 2018 mid-term elections will be the first chance for Americans to undo the tragic error of 2016.
That became clear in recent weeks when three principled Republican senators—Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee—and former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama publicly condemned the Trump administration for what it is and is not.
One might hope that those declarations would be seen by many other senators and representatives as an opportunity to help lance the painful and dangerous boil that our politics has become under Trump.
But one would be disappointed. Mostly there was a saddening silence from all other Republicans and the averting of their eyes from the spectacle they created. Pointedly, neither was there any resounding defense of the administration against the five’s unprecedented revolt.
There was only a depressing and cowardly silence, confirming that what Flake so eloquently warned against—the normalization of a dysfunctional administration and the aberrational actions of the man who heads it—has in fact occurred. A core GOP talking point for the few Republicans who spoke at all about the revolt was that the differences between Flake, Corker et al and Trump were simply “personality conflicts,” a wildly distortive equating of the actions of five patriots with Trump’s self-serving recklessness.
Illustrating the peril of normalizing governing chaos, a Washington Post- University of Maryland survey released on Saturday found that 71 percent of Americans think our political system has reached “a dangerous low point,” and more than half of them (39 percent) believe that the situation is “the new normal,” while 31 percent believe the nadir is real but temporary; that somehow things will change.
The respondents to the new survey clearly understand the operational dynamic of today’s Congress: 12 percent of those surveyed believe members of Congress base their policies on core values, while 87 percent agreed with the statement that the members “do whatever is needed to win elections.”
The oldest rationalization in politics is that you can’t accomplish anything if you lose the election so it’s OK to do anything to not lose. That ?
1,000 pound sack has always contained a half-gram of pragmatism, but in today’s atmosphere, with extremists jamming the gears of both parties, paying the high moral price of getting elected doesn’t liberate you to act; it permanently locks you into a cycle of fearful inaction and policy stasis because the far left and far right are so frozen in place.
We got to this place because too many voters asked the wrong questions, or no questions at all. Too many listened only to the dog whistles of the strategists and special interests who seemed to represent their instincts.
When that happens, the superficial political objective of winning overwhelms the legitimate political objective of governing, which is to work together to improve the lives of people and the society as a whole.
We need less ideological, less selfish and more courageous candidates, but we also need better voters and more of them. The latter beget the former.
It needs to start now.
Davis Merritt, Wichita journalist and author, can be reached at [email protected]