I haven’t previously posted about the Impeachment trial. Initially, I figured that, since virtually everyone who has an opinion has written, spoken and generally fulminated about those opinions, there wasn’t much of value I could add.
Most of the commentary has–quite correctly–pointed to the cowardice and lack of integrity of all but seven Republican Senators. Columns and editorials have especially zeroed in on the breathtaking hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell; in his speech immediately after the vote, he made it clear that he knew Trump was guilty as charged. The fig leaf that McConnell and his spineless colleagues were frantically trying to hide behind was an utterly unpersuasive opinion that a President who no longer held office could not be constitutionally impeached–an opinion rejected by virtually all constitutional scholars.
It also didn’t escape notice that McConnell was the reason the trial had been delayed until after Biden was inaugurated.
Suffice it to say that the overwhelming hypocrisy and dishonesty in the face of what everyone in that chamber clearly knew was astounding–and it has all been the subject of widespread condemnation. What hasn’t been adequately analyzed, however, is how we got here–“here” being a legislative chamber containing so many Senators clearly unworthy of public office.
I am convinced that the pathetic performance Americans saw last week was the result of forty-plus years of denigrating the very existence of government and belittling those who serve in it.
Reagan started the incessant attacks, and Republican dogma ever since has been that government–far from being an important tool for collective action addressing America’s problems–is always and inevitably a threat that must be constrained and hobbled. Republican messaging has been sneering and dismissive of the very notion that government might be an essential mechanism for achieving the common good. It has been years since I heard a Republican politician employ terms like “statesmanship” and/or “public service.”
When I saw that both of Indiana’s undistinguished, moral-pygmy Senators had (predictably) voted to acquit, I could almost picture them spitting on Dick Lugar’s grave…
The Republican demonization of government has largely succeeded in changing the identity of the GOP. The political culture that produced statesmen like Dick Lugar and Bill Hudnut has been replaced by the slimy “what’s in it for me” opportunism of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump–and Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and too many others.
Honorable, talented people are attracted to careers that those in their particular tribes consider prestigious and admirable. When government employment is denigrated and mocked–“couldn’t get a real job?”– when political actors are expected to be corrupt, and when politics is widely considered the refuge of blowhards and scoundrels, blowhards and scoundrels are who it will attract.
It’s instructive to emphasize that these persistent attacks on government and public service have come overwhelmingly from Republicans. Democrats have been far more likely to defend the importance and worth of America’s political institutions, and I don’t think it is just happenstance that as a result–as we can see at the federal level– Democratic officeholders these days tend to be considerably more public-spirited, honorable and impressive than their Republican peers.
Today’s Democrats have Jamie Raskin; Republicans have Marjorie Taylor Green…