It is difficult to say which is more appalling—the thoroughly bizarre, flailing behavior of the current Occupant of the White House in attempting to justify this week’s shocking actions, or the stone-cold silence of the political Party that is backing him.
Paul Krugman in today’s New York Times has some choice words about the Republican members of the Congress and Senate who have chosen to stand mute while an unbalanced, self-styled tyrant attempts to tear down our country’s institutions with his agitated Twitter fingers. Krugman specifically singles out Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, both of whom actually rose to defend Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey to thwart the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia, a collusion that may have determined the outcome of last year’s Presidential election:
Everyone understands that Mr. Comey was fired not because of his misdeeds during the campaign — misdeeds that helped put Trump in the White House — but because his probe of Russian connections with the Trump campaign was accelerating and, presumably, getting too close to home. So this looks very much like the use of presidential power to cover up possible foreign subversion of the U.S. government.
Krugman believes that the Republican leadership’s willingness to turn a blind eye to possible treason reflects that Party’s transformation in recent decades into an organization solely dedicated to the lowering of taxes for its multi-millionaire donor base. Trump's attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") simply provided an irresistible opportunity for the Party to fulfill that prime function. Everything else—including the risk of undermining the integrity of our Constitutional government—suddenly became secondary to that overriding imperative:
[T]he two leading Republicans in Congress are apparently O.K. with that cover-up, because the Trump ascendancy is giving them the chance to do what they always wanted, namely, take health insurance away from millions of Americans while slashing taxes on the wealthy.
A Party that used to wrap itself in the flag, reflexively hurling accusations of disloyalty against Democrats who objected to such catastrophic mistakes as McCarthyism and the contrived invasion of Iraq, now finds itself cheering on the meddling of a hostile foreign power into our most sacred Democratic institutions. All to succor the desires of our wealthiest citizens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes towards the common good:
At this point, in other words, almost an entire party appears to have decided that potential treason in the cause of tax cuts for the wealthy is no vice. And that’s barely hyperbole.
To explain how this is happening before our stunned eyes, Krugman shows how the Republican Party has gradually morphed into an institution dominated by a nativist, “America-First" (really a “Me-First") core philosophy so extreme and radical that it willingly embraces murderous foreign leaders if it doesn't get its way:
What isn’t often mentioned is that many of the most prominent America-firsters weren’t just isolationists, they were actively sympathetic to foreign dictators; there’s a more or less straight line from Charles Lindbergh proudly wearing the medal he received from Hermann Göring to Trump’s cordial relations with Rodrigo Duterte, the literally murderous president of the Philippines.
This is now a Party made up of people so blinded by their ideology that they would gladly discard the integrity of the entire country in pursuance of their narrow self-interests. Trump (with the aid of Fox News and other “conservative" propaganda outlets) has simply given voice to a sentiment Republicans have harbored now for decades—that any opposition to their belief system is by its very nature illegitimate and must be destroyed, even if that means the destruction of our pluralistic society along with it. This is the same mentality that for the past eight years mindlessly fought and attempted to subvert President Obama’s every action geared to actually improve Americans’ lives.
We saw it immediately at the outset of this Administration’s short tenure, as every Republican Senator calmly voted to approve Trump’s appointments to the same Federal Agencies they had previously reviled or even vowed to destroy. It is a mentality of nihilism, premised on the thoughtless “privatization” of anything and everything intended for the public welfare, in which the founding principles of Democracy that form the core of our Constitution can be disregarded because “Republicans know better." It is a complete abandonment of the public trust, finally finding its enabler in the persona of Donald Trump.
Krugman concludes with a warning about the insidious nature of the Republican Party’s willing, even casual betrayal of our country:
[I]it’s time to face up to the scary reality here. Most people now realize, I think, that Donald Trump holds basic American political values in contempt. What we need to realize is that much of his party shares that contempt.
The simple truth is that these Republicans don’t care about the country or Americans in general, beyond their tiny base of millionaire and billionaire donors. We’re a nuisance to them, to be “worked around,” or, more preferably, silenced altogether.
This is the reality of what we as Americans are up against, and the inaction of McConnell, Ryan and the Republican Party simply confirms it.
[For some historical context of how the Republican Party mutated into its current form, see xaxnar’s post here.]