By Paul Rozycki
To my Republican friends:
While we may disagree on many things, there is no doubt that the Republican Party has a long and honorable history. It led the nation through a brutal civil war, ending slavery. It was an early advocate for civil rights and racial equality, in the years following that war. It has been a strong supporter of fiscal and personal responsibility, both within the government, and in personal lives. It has been the voice of those who wished to spread the American ideals of democracy and freedom around the world. It has been a leading force against those who would limit freedom and democracy around the world.
The legacy of past presidents
Your party is heir to the proud heritage of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. It was your own party leaders who had the courage to tell Richard Nixon, that in spite of his political victories, it was time to leave. Yet today, many of those ideals are being erased as you become the party of Donald Trump.
You are the party of Abraham Lincoln, who held the nation together, and ended the scourge of slavery, but support a president who says “there are good people on both sides,” when responding to a white power march supported by neo-Nazis and the KKK.
You are the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the ‘trust buster’ of the early 20th century, but support a president who has given huge tax breaks to his billionaire friends and corporations, as the middle class continues to shrink and struggle.
Roosevelt was also an avid conservationist, who led the early formation of national parks, and you have seen our president deny global warming and climate change, as he removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords.
Dwight Eisenhower led the nation in war and peace, and believed that strong alliances protect America’s security. Yet, we have seen the current president work to weaken our most important and long-lasting treaty organizations, insult our allies, and cozy up to our enemies.
Ronald Reagan believed that the Soviet Union was “the evil empire” and set the stage for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Soviet system. Our current president is willing to attack and insult nearly every world leader, with one exception. He hasn’t said a word to offend Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Though he didn’t always follow his own advice, Reagan believed in a limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a balanced budget. The current president has given us trillion dollar deficits, well into the future, at a time when the economy is doing well. When the economy turns down, it could be a recipe for economic disaster.
The values Republicans support
You are the party of family values. Yet you support at president who brags about assaulting women, and boasts of his affairs, as he slips from one marriage to another, while he pays off porn stars. Under his direction, we have seen families broken up at the border, and locked in cages.
You claim to be the party of constitutional law and limited government. Yet you have supported a president who blatantly ignores the Congress and the Constitution when it suits him.
You claim to be the party of law and order, and yet you have supported a president who has seen at least 34 of his associates indicted (and some already convicted) for a variety of criminal acts. More than a few of his enterprises and charities have been charged with fraud. His blatant lies and misstatements have surpassed 15,000 and grow by the day.
The Republican Party claims to be the party of tradition and patriotism—it seems that the flag is ever-present at public events–yet President Trump has attacked and undermined many key elements of the federal government, from the FBI, the CIA, the EPA, the Department of Education, to the military. He has insulted American veterans by saying he only liked those “who weren’t captured.” His recent military pardons have undermined the authority and respect of our military and its leaders. When he hasn’t attacked a department, he has often left it understaffed and unsupported.
During the Watergate scandal, it was the leadership of the Republican Party, which decided, that even though Richard Nixon had delivered a landslide victory for them in 1972, they had to stand on the principles of law and decency. In 1974, when Republican Senators Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott and House Leader John Rhodes came to the White House, and told Nixon that he had few votes in the Senate to protect him from removal, he resigned the next day.
The current impeachment trial
Having been impeached by the House, as President Trump now faces trial in the Senate, the outcome seems all but certain. A two-thirds vote is required to remove an official, and right now there are only 47 Democrats who might vote to remove him. Even that number might be optimistic—a few Democrats may opt out. So it will take at least 20 Republicans to vote to remove Donald Trump. Perhaps some will. But it’s unlikely there will be anywhere near the required number.
Why not? Certainly some truly believe that Trump is the new voice of the Republican Party. Yet in private, many Republicans admit a long list of misgivings over Trump’s personality, his policy, and his competence. But in public, they remain silent, and fear retaliation with an angry tweet, or a Trump-backed challenger in a primary election. The party seems to be solidly behind him because, many of those who have misgivings and doubts about Trump are gone, either by leaving the party, retiring, or losing in 2018.
Yet it’s worth remembering that supporting this president is a risky gamble. He has shown no loyalty to any of his staff and supporters, except perhaps his family, and a willingness to throw his former friends and associates under the bus, if they cross him on the slightest matter.
Finally, somewhere in the back of your mind, won’t you secretly be relieved when Trump is finally gone, so you won’t have to explain his crazy tweets, defend his personal behavior, attend his stream-of-consciousness, word-salad rally speeches, and try to make sense of it all?
So, whatever happens with the impeachment trial in the Senate, it might be worth asking—do you want to be the Republican Party, with all the values that you have supported for decades, or do you want to be the Trump Party, whose political values can change on a whim of a mercurial and uninformed personality?
It was John Kennedy, who admired those leaders who could exhibit “Profiles in Courage” and go against popular sentiment, by taking a principled stand. Though he was a Democrat, Kennedy wrote of leaders on both sides of the aisle, who could exhibit the courage to lean against their own parties, and even their own voters, when they stood up for what was right.
Though it’s a long shot, maybe it’s time for some “Profiles in Courage.” I suspect that the nation will be better for it, and so will the Republican Party.
Not that I wish you too much good luck. I’m still a Democrat.
EVM Board President and political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.