The Word Of The Year: Complicit

There was a brief spurt of publicity when chose “complicit” as its 2017 word of the year. The site defined complicit as follows:

Complicit means “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” Or, put simply, it means being, at some level, responsible for something . . . even if indirectly.

And that brings me to today’s Republican Party.

I emphasize that I am talking about today’s GOP, and not the party that used to operate under that name. It’s one thing to disagree with positions taken by either of our major parties (or minor ones, for that matter), and quite another to recognize that a political party that was once a responsible voice for defensible policy positions has disintegrated into equal parts semi-criminal enterprise and White Nationalist cult.

I left the GOP in 2000, when George W. Bush was still the most appalling personification of the party, so I am no longer a credible “ex-Republican.” But I’ve been impressed by several commentators with impeccable Republican credentials who currently are sounding the alarm–and (quaint as it may seem) putting country above party. One of those is Michael Gerson, whose recent column in the Washington Post began:

I find myself wandering in an unfamiliar place. As a pro-life conservative, I am honestly happy — no, positively elated — that pro-choice Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama’s U.S. Senate election.

Gerson enumerated both his discomfort and his reasoning:

Roy Mooreism was distilled Trumpism, flavored with some self-righteous moralism. It was all there: the aggressive ignorance, the racial divisiveness, the disdain for governing, the contempt for truth, the accusations of sexual predation, the (just remarkable) trashing of America in favor of Vladimir Putin, the conspiracy theories, the sheer, destabilizing craziness of the average day.

Gerson considers what it would take to weakenTrump’s hold on the GOP; he dismisses the possibility of moral considerations, and he uses the Word of the Year.

The president has crossed line after line of decency and ethics with only scattered Republican bleats of protest. Most of the party remains in complicit silence. The few elected officials who have broken with Trump have become targets of the conservative media complex — savaged as an example to the others.

This is the sad logic of Republican politics today: The only way that elected Republicans will abandon Trump is if they see it as in their self-interest. And the only way they will believe it is in their self-interest is to watch a considerable number of their fellow Republicans lose.

Most political observers share Gerson’s conclusion that, “In the near term, this is what victory for Republicans will look like: strategic defeat. Recovery will be found only on the other side of loss.” And then, the Word of the Year again.

Trump and his allies are solidifying the support of rural, blue-collar and evangelical Christian whites at the expense of alienating minorities, women, suburbanites and the young. This is a foolish bargain, destroying the moral and political standing of the Republican Party, which seems complicit in its own decline. It falls to Republican voters to end this complicity.

I don’t know whether there are enough old-time Republicans left to make their desertion noticeable. Those polls that show  80% of self-described Republicans still supporting Trump tend not to point out that the number of “self-described Republicans” has been shrinking, and shrinking rather substantially.  The voters who remain in the Grand Old Party are precisely those rural, blue-collar and evangelical Christian whites who cheer the racist, minsogynst and xenophobic rhetoric that is alienating everyone else.

That said, Gerson is absolutely right about one thing: today’s complicit GOP has to lose. Badly.


  1. I doubt that Donald Trump’s intention is to distract the public from the role that his fellow elected Republicans daily play in the destruction of the government. From my viewpoint, his intention is singular, namely his deep need for constant attention. Yet for too many Americans, that constant focus of attention on just him is a big mistake. Let Mueller do that job while the rest of us focus on the Republicans who rule Congress and so many state houses. As for those Trump supporters we all personally know, I suggest the type of kindness that psychiatrists use with their patients knowing their fears, sins, and worse failures.

  2. Michael Gershon is reasonable and thoughtful; there are many more that are accomodating Trump and the Republicans and their columns may not appear in the Post or the Times, but they are given a special place in the Indianapolis Star. Michael Barone for example and now Gary Varvel is fancying himself a columnist as well as a political cartoonist. Tim Swarens protests some of Trump’s actions and policies but he continues to run opinion columns that rally the Trump base.

    We may be successful in unseating congressional Republicans but the barrage from the conservative press ‘s fake news will continue to shape the minds and opinions of many voters.

  3. I still say, don’t get in the way of an imminent train wreck. The Whigs are gone. Let’s just make sure the Republicans are, too, and as soon as possible.

  4. Donald Trump, with his own big mouth controlled by his humongous ego, placed himself as the head complicitor prior to and throughout his presidential campaign by repeatedly praising Putin’s leadership and the Russian government’s success over and above President Obama and all previous presidents as well as decades of governing the United States of America. He cannot, but will probably attempt, to remove himself from any and all things pertaining to this widening Russian investigation. Does he actually have the power to stop an investigation with himself the primary target? Nixon tried but couldn’t do it; he did succeed in appointing Gerald Ford as Vice President, to replace the elected criminal Spiro Agnew, to assure his immediate pardon upon his resignation.

    Must we suffer through that again? If so; let it be NOW, not after Trump goads North Korea to fire that preemptive nuclear strike, during this time in which he has in less than one year, alienated our allies and insulted and threatened the United Nations and is cutting our financial support of the UN. Every financial move he has made since January 20, 2017, has been to aid the 1% and insure the continuation of his oligarchy…manned by neo-Nazi, White Nationalist and KKK supported leadership.

    Will, can Trump widen his list of banned words to include “complicit” from anything to do with the vital Russian investigation by Robert Mueller amid the increasing speculation of “will he or won’t he or can he fire Mueller?” We must hold the entire current Congress complicit in conditions the entire country is struggling to survive today; otherwise “we” will be complicit in the downfall of the United States of American and democracy as we know it. Warts and all, it is – or was – the greatest nation on earth. Being brought down by one fool using Tweets to rule the country.

  5. Both political parties are a sham; the players are actors who’ve auctioned off their soul for money. The Libertarian Koch brothers bankrolled the demise of the Grand Ole Party. For a while, it was the Grand Ole Tea Party. The anti-government crowd is fueled by manipulations and ancient fears of brown people and anyone who doesn’t themselves Christians.

    The Koch’s have been buying universities who produce sham “studies and economic reports” which are then furnished to conservative media who manipulate folks with their fake news but covers it up well by blaming ALL social ills on “liberals”. I was schooled recently on Twitter about the source of racism – “you liberals invented it to convince blacks to vote for Democrats.”

    The owned the SCOTUS judge Antonin Scalia who famously said that bribing public officials should be legal because there is no evidence that the donors get anything in return. I guess all of his donations helped turn a blind eye to the mass complicity called our Tax Reform Bill and Net Neutrality repulsion.

    It’s a perfect storm of greed, fear, and ignorance.

    The other problem is it’s pulled the Democratic Party so far to the right of a “political center”, the Donor Class will never have to relinquish their powerful hold. Business as usual for them. Meanwhile, the working class loses and will have to form a new party to represent their interests.

  6. “The greatest nation on earth.” Self proclaimed. “Warts and all.” Built by the most greivous warts, slavery, genocide, misogyny. Powerful, yes. Great and good at times. Lacking in humility, often.

  7. Reference:The Pope and Mussolini by David Kertzer, winner of the Pulitzer prize 2014.

    Pope Pius Xl was not just complicit in the rise and command of Mussolini over Italy, but was instrumentally supportive. I suggest “complicit” is a euphemism. Further, there is something about the personality traits that engenders such response

    Here is Kertzer commenting on Mussolini and citing a powerful fascist of the time.

    ” Giuseppe Bottai, longtime member of the Fascist Grand Council spoke of two different Mussolinis. One was expansive and spontaneous by his instincts; the other was ‘small, petty, with little envies and jealousies of common man, quick to lie, to use deception and fraud, dispenser of promises that he had no intention of keeping, disloyal, treacherous, mean, lacking in affect, incapable of loyalty or love, quick to dump his most faithful followers.’ Mussolini could abide no competition, and any hint that one of his top ministers was getting too much favorable public attention was likely to lead to assignments to Africa or the Balkans.”

  8. John Neal,

    Your quote of Kertzer about Mussolini fits our own fascist leader, Trump. It is also good to remind people of the role that Pius XI, Pius XII and the Catholic Church played in the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe during the last century despite current attempts to re-write history about those events. To hear the American right wing tell it, no Christian helped push Jews into the ovens.

  9. Does anyone suppose the GOP has a plan that they are following? After they were defeated by Trump in the primaries did that plan change? Do they plan to go out of business this coming year? Do McConnell and Ryan have a campaign strategy that they are confident in that will sell this debacle that they are perpetrating on the American people to voters?

    To me the apparent silence of the DNC is sort of understandable shock and incredulessness that the country that they planned on serving turned out to be different than they thought it was.

    But the silence of the GOP? I don’t know.

    The world is not as I thought it was. What now?

  10. In regard to the early nurturing of fascism, it is worth considering that the capitalist FEAR OF SOCIALISM was its historical mother.

  11. encouraging Indy Star front page news today on the women of Franklin who helped derail a toxic fool heading for the EPA…..look for bright spots to elevate and encourage others….and follow his dammed picks for anything……young will blindly follow trump….so sad, no independent thoughts……

  12. Speaking of complicity, Congressman Rooney (from here in Naples) now wants to “purge” anti-Trump elements out of the FBI and, presumably, other police and intelligence agencies who he labels as being members of some mythical “deep state” cabal that runs America. I have responded with a letter to the editor this morning calling for him to resign with his banana republic and Stalinist purge chatter designed to cover Trump’s possible involvement with Putin in the destruction of our democracy via Putin’s demonstrable interference in last fall’s election.

    Few these days seem to understand that the judiciary is an independent branch of government with constitutionally-designed duties, among which is not one to protect anybody from the rule of law., including presidents (see Nixon). Interference with carrying out of such duties, it seems to me, is in itself obstruction and, as applied to foreign interference, sedition or even treason.

    Words such as complicity matter. For instance, a letter to the editor in the local blah laments the coming liberal wave and the spending certain to follow. Such people don’t look on the other side of the fiscal curtain. If they did they would see Republican spending that dwarfs Democratic spending, but for the coffers of the rich at the expense of education, infrastructure etc., areas of interest to Democrats. Similar laments are made about too many rules and regulations that are preventing investment and the profitable conduct of businesses, but neglect to point out that every economy whether organized as a capitalist or socialist market has rules and regulations. The question really is the political decision of who gets to make the rules and regulations. Republicans, even as against the history of The Great Depression and Bush’s Great Recession, want to leave the rule and reg authority to the rich and corporate class with minimum public input.

    We saw how that worked out as recently as 2007-2008. Remember the threat of international depression, trillions in lost home equity, bailouts, massive mortgage fraud etc.? I do, and it looked a lot like 1929. I for one am not hankering for a repeat of either 1929 or 2007 with a Trump-led return to trickledown/austerity economics and Wall Street policymaking. No, thanks.

  13. Nobody looks forward to economic trauma be it recession or depression but what surer way to evict the interlopers? It could be like chemo or radiation. Makes us feel worse first in order to be better later.

    My worry is less if and more when. I’m hoping for 2019.

  14. Rise of Fascism in Italy and overlap with Catholicism. (continued)

    1. Feared Socialism ( Larry has it right)
    2. Hatred of Jews ( Theresa has it right)
    3. Disdain of parliamentary democracy

  15. Greetings all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! This question has nothing to do with today’s topic but I’m hoping someone will know the answer. Do the Trump resorts where he stays on his frequent visits charge the government for Trump being a guest at the resort?

  16. Yes Irvin, they do.

    Honestly, I’m furious with the GOP more so than #45. They are complicit in their dealings with him and to praise him at last week’s white house gathering was the worst thing EVAH! Ugh, it was ugly and disgusting. Don’t they realize that we have video of these lackeys voicing their disapproval of 45 before they decided to manipulate him to do their bidding? ugh. I want to throw up a little in my mouth watching this administration.

  17. Complicit seems to me to be a rather mild word, lacking strong action. I think collaborator is far more forceful : Collaborator > a person who works with another person or group in order to achieve or do something. The Republicans and their paymasters are perfectly happy with the Trumpet.

    First I question if there can be a “Moderate” Republican these days. The Republicans in mass voted for the Trumpets (Agent Orange) tax plan. The Republicans at first hammered Roy Moore and then performed an abrupt about face. Pence’s performance at the Cabinet meeting was worthy of one of Stalin’s sycophants, Trump sat there posturing like Mussolini. For instance in an act of boot licking only exceeded by Mike Pence (Dense):

    Last week, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch stood on the White House lawn, opining that Donald Trump’s presidency could be “the greatest presidency that we’ve seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.”

  18. There was an interesting article in today’s NYT that warned progressives and liberals against being SO strident and aggressive that we drive off potential swing voters. Blogs like this are great for venting and establishing our position with Trump, the Republicans and the terrible policies and ideas that are ruining progress and good things that were done.

    I’ve written before here and on other blogs, that our efforts need to be more focused on finding, training, supporting and fielding viable candidates for EVERY office in EVERY election EVERYWHERE. It’s good to see many more people running for offices that have gone un-contested, but now we have to make sure that those progressives WIN those elections and kick the Republican Party, especially this version of it, to the curb where they belong.

  19. I’m going in a different direction here. I’m trying to understand how a “conservative” cannot be pro-choice. Being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion, it simply an acknowledgement of an individual’s right to have control over her own body, which seem to me to be the very definition of conservative. To be consistent, being pro-life would mean being against the death penalty, as well, but few pro-lifers are. Being pro-life would mean giving aid and assistance to children in need. I don’t have the exact quote, but Trevor Noah once said, to the pro-life a baby is much like a comic book, in that it only has value until you take it out of the wrapper.

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