Forty plus years ago, if we had witnessed the events of the last month coming from the White House, regardless of party affiliation, Congressional Republicans would have been likely pushing for impeachment. Fast forward to the present and we witness entirely different behavior. What happened to Republicans? Several things, not the least of which is that today party is more important than country to all but a few Republicans in Congress. But I credit much of the shift to the fact that the base of the GOP today is controlled by religious extremists and white supremacists who place their ideology to all else - as a former Republican, I saw the swamp fever when the onset began. Compounding this cancer in the party base is the rise of Fox News and other conservative "news" outlets that are about as truthful as Pravda during the darkest days of the Soviet Union. To watch or listen to these outlets is to enter into an alternate universe that is free from facts and objective reality. All of this has enforced a need to conform and protect the Republican Party, the nation be damned. A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon which in part is why we have a totally unfit occupant in the White House. Here are excerpts:
[Paul] Ryan is speaker of the House of Representatives, a legislative body with the power to issue subpoenas, compel testimony and, yes, impeach the president. In fact, under the Constitution, Ryan and his congressional colleagues are effectively the only check on a rogue chief executive.It has become painfully clear, however, that Republicans have no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power.
They may make a few gestures toward accountability in the face of bad poll numbers, but there is not a hint that any important figures in the party care enough about the Constitution or the national interest to take a stand.
And the big question we should be asking is how that happened. At this point we know who and what Trump is, and have a pretty good idea of what he has been doing. If we had two patriotic parties in the country, impeachment proceedings would already be underway. But we don’t. What’s the matter with Republicans?
First, Republicans are professional politicians. Yes, so are most Democrats. But the parties are not the same. The Democratic Party is a coalition of interest groups, with some shared views but also a lot of conflicts, and politicians get ahead through their success in striking compromises and finding acceptable solutions.
The G.O.P., by contrast, is one branch of a monolithic structure, movement conservatism, with a rigid ideology — tax cuts for the rich above all else. Other branches of the structure include a captive media that parrots the party line every step of the way.
And this monolithic structure — lavishly supported by a small number of very, very wealthy families — rewards, indeed insists on, absolute fealty. Furthermore, the structure has been in place for a long time: It has been 36 years since Reagan was elected, 22 years since the Gingrich takeover of Congress. What this means is that nearly all Republicans in today’s Congress are apparatchiks, political creatures with no higher principle beyond party loyalty.
The fact that the G.O.P. is a party of apparatchiks was one crucial factor in last year’s election. . . . . Republicans, however, went all in behind Trump, knowing full well that he was totally unqualified, strongly suspecting that he was corrupt and even speculating that he might be in Russian pay, simply because there was an “R” after his name on the ballot.
And even now, with the Trump/Flynn/Comey story getting worse by the hour, there has been no significant breaking of ranks. If you’re waiting to find the modern version of Howard Baker . . . . Men like that left the G.O.P. a long time ago.
Republicans won’t turn on Trump unless he has become such a political liability that he must be dumped. And even if Trump goes, one way or another, the threat to the Republic will be far from over.
As I have noted many times, given what the GOP has become, I am ashamed I ever had anything to do with it. It is morally bankrupt and a threat to constitutional government.In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. . . . . given the character of the Republican Party, we’d be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.