“It's because I still believe, as you used to, that politics isn't about the weird worship of one dude.” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Meet the Press, Feb. 7
On Feb. 9, the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump began in the U.S. Senate. Trump was accused with inciting the deadly Capitol riot on Jan. 6. On the trial’s second day, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., assured Trump that he would be acquitted.
“I reinforced to the president, the case is over. It’s just a matter of getting the final verdict now.”
During the impeachment trial, House managers presented compelling evidence of Trump’s guilt. The defense was erratic and unconvincing. When the trial concluded, 57 senators voted to convict. This didn’t meet the necessary two-thirds threshold, so Trump was acquitted.
After the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., outlined Trump’s actions. He blamed Trump for a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the actions of the mob. He left no doubt about Trump’s guilt.
Republicans have been insisting that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. It wasn’t, but Graham’s statement proves this trial was rigged. The verdict was preordained no matter what the evidence showed. Republicans planned to acquit Trump regardless of the truth.
I’ve said before that I used to be a Republican, but the Republican Party I believed in was the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. These were men who had bold, progressive ideas and who knew that government could do great things for the American people. None of them would be welcome in today’s Republican Party.
Today’s Republican Party is a hollow shell, with no foundational principles except to do whatever Trump wants. This was confirmed prior to the 2020 presidential election, when the Republican National Committee stated: “RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda. The 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform…” (Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2020)
By endorsing Trump’s “America First” agenda, Republicans are tapping into a very sordid history. Prior to World War II, America First was a call to isolationism, working to keep America out of war. Members were OK with doing business with the Nazis and unconcerned about Hitler’s plans for Europe. Many America First proponents were anti-Semitic, blaming Jewish people for pushing America toward war. Are these the ideals today’s Republicans want to defend? “America First” is not a coherent plan; it’s just propaganda.
Not every Republican leader has fallen into lockstep with Trump. Sasse, a Republican, voted to convict Trump because Sasse believes in the Constitution. As he said, “…politics isn't about the weird worship of one dude.”
Republican Nikki Haley, former U.N. Ambassador under Trump, recently defended Trump. Now she says, “We need to acknowledge he let us down. He went down a path he shouldn’t have. And we shouldn’t have followed him. And we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.” (Politico, Feb. 12)
Other Republicans realize that mindless allegiance to Trump is destroying the Republican Party. With Trump as de facto leader, the party has descended into a cult of personality. Jimmy Gurulé , a member of President George W. Bush’s cabinet, said, “The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists. I’d call it the cult of Trump.” (Reuters, Feb. 2)
A former Republican Congressman, Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., summed it up: “This has become a cult. It's no longer a political party… It's a cult. I mean there is no Republican Party anymore that has values, principles, morals, anything.” (The Hill, Jan. 15)
Can the Republican Party be salvaged? “A number of mostly former Republican officials are discussing how to move the party forward in the aftermath of the Trump presidency, raising the possibility of a formal split from the GOP, according to two people leading the discussions. Reuters first reported that dozens of these party faithful are in talks to form an anti-Trump third party.” (CBS News, Feb. 12)
The Republican Party has become a party with one principle, allegiance to its cult leader Trump. Because of this, a large segment of Americans now believes the use of violence and insurrection are legitimate ways to express grievances.
By enabling this movement, Republican leaders are taking us into dangerous territory. Their lemming-like commitment to Trump will lead the party right off the cliff. Let’s hope they don’t destroy the America we love.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.