The Party of Traitors

by S. T. Joshi
(From Free Inquiry April/May 2018, Volume 38 Number 3)

The question of the day is: How have we reached the stage where an entire political party in this country has in effect descended into treason?

I refer, of course, to the current incarnation of the G.O.P. Let it not be thought that I am echoing a longstanding Republican ploy of demonizing my antagonists by attributing treasonous motivations to mere political differences. Republicans have admittedly perfected this technique, lambasting support for abortion rights, gun control, and even the raising of the minimum wage as some kind of lèse-majesté against truth, justice, and the American way. On the contrary, I am speaking of a party that has gone out of its way to subvert American law and American ideals in ways that could, if it were successful (which, in fact, it won’t be), lead us down the road to autocracy.

Let us consider, first, the ineffable Roy S. Moore. To everyone’s surprise (especially his own), this “judge,” who had twice been thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for sundry offenses, lost narrowly to a Democrat, Doug Jones, in a special election on December 12 for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by our current “attorney general,” Jeff Sessions. I am not interested in the credible accusations from at least nine women that Moore dated and, in at least one instance, molested them when they were underage; these allegations may reveal Moore’s despicable character, but not his violations of constitutional law. It is these latter—his refusal to acknowledge the separation of church and state and his truculent denial of the legality of same-sex marriage—that make him such a dangerous figure.

And yet, Moore lost the election by fewer than 22,000 votes. Okay, we’re talking about Alabama; and I suppose we should be grateful that at least a certain number of Republicans (including, incredibly, Alabama’s other senator, Richard Shelby) refused to support him. But his support remained unwavering among evangelicals in that state. Is it any wonder that Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, remarked ruefully on the day of the election that “there is already one loser: Christian faith”? The moral uprightness of evangelicals—always a canard except in their own minds—has now been seen as the hollow sham that it is, given the devil’s bargain they have made with the Republican party. The short-term political gains they may or may not achieve will be massively outweighed by the long-term harm they will suffer as their hypocrisy and corruption become increasingly evident.

Let us now turn our attention to the action that the Republicans fondly wish will save them from electoral decimation in 2018: the passage of the Frankenstein’s monster of a tax “reform” bill at the end of 2017. I refer not to the specifics of the bill, although those are bad enough: the deliberate targeting of “blue” states by capping state and local taxes; the many and numerous gifts to the wealthy, whether it be a lower income tax rate for the super-rich or drastically lower corporate taxes or a virtual elimination of the estate tax; the appalling injustice inherent in the fact that the corporate tax reduction is permanent while the (minimal) tax reductions for the lower and middle class are temporary.

All that is, as I say, bad enough from a policy perspective—and the blatant lies about the bill that were uttered by all manner of special pleaders, from the treasury secretary on down, are worse. The question becomes: how could a majority of G.O.P. members of Congress vote for a bill that was demonstrably unpopular even with their own constituents? One Republican congressman, Chris Collins of New York, inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he said: “My donors are basically saying get it done or don’t ever call me again.” Strange: I always thought that politicians were supposed to serve their constitutents, not their wealthy donors. Silly me!

But the rot that afflicts the G.O.P. begins at the tip and filters all the way down to the rank and file. I refer, of course, to our esteemed “president,” whose many and various derelictions—growing evidence of his campaign’s collusion with the Russian government; his own obstruction of justice in the investigation of that matter; his sexual assaults on dozens of women; his bare-faced and unrepentant enrichment of himself by virtue of his office; his reckless and irresponsible tweets, which could easily trigger wars around the world, nuclear or otherwise—are drearily familiar. These issues, any one of which would be grounds for impeachment, are bad enough; transcending them in loathsomeness is the vile toadying of Mr. Trump by nearly every member of the Republican party. The comment by the doddering senator Orrin G. Hatch—who in recent years has systematically destroyed whatever standing as a statesman he once had—is typical: “We are going to make this the greatest presidency we have seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.” Yeah, right. (Oh, wait—I forgot to mention how that eminent historian Mike Huckabee has compared Mr. Trump favorably to Winston Churchill.) Here again, in exchange for certain short-term gains the G.O.P. is happy to become bootlickers and lickspittles of what his own advisers have called a “dope” (or is that an “idiot” or a “moron”?). Well, we’ll see how far that gets them.

So what is to be done? Short of carrying out the standard punishment for traitors, an elegantly simple solution presents itself: go out and vote. What could be more satisfying than to give this motley crew of hypocrites, time-servers, dogmatists, and defiers of the public will the gift of a comfortable life as private citizens? That is exactly what will happen to a good many of them before the year is over.

Whether the Republicans’ descent into permanent minority status will chasten them and compel them to conduct any kind of introspective assessment of their irremediable corruption is anyone’s guess. I, for one, tend to doubt it.