The press recently had a field day when it was discovered during his 60 Minutes interview that President Trump hung mall artist, Andy Thomas’ painting The Republican Club in the White House. The fantasy painting depicted past Republican presidents enjoying the company of a very fit Donald Trump. The outrage was over the fact that Trump hung a print of a painting the equivalent of dogs playing poker in the White House. In my opinion, the artist got it wrong. I truly doubt Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and the other Republican presidents would welcome Donald Trump as an equal. Meanwhile, the press missed an opportunity to explore the reasons why not and track the moral decay of the Republican party.
How could the party of Lincoln, who wrote the emancipation proclamation, support an obviously racist president who calls white supremacists “good people” while encouraging police brutality and voter suppression aimed at African Americans? Lincoln kept a divided country together. Trump only divides us further.
How could the party of conservationist Teddy Roosevelt, whose "Square Deal" domestic policies, promised the average citizen fairness by regulating railroads, food and drugs, support a president whose policies favor the very rich while deregulating environmental and other policies meant to protect the common folk?
How could the party of Eisenhower, who contained the expansion of the Soviet Union and reduced federal deficits, support a president who is apparently under the thumb of the Russian president, and has run up the deficit to an all time high? The middle class prospered with Eisenhower’s top marginal income tax rate of 92%. Trump has given the rich a 37% top tax rate filled with lots of loopholes.
The moral decay of the party starts with Nixon, generally considered the black sheep of American presidents. Besides Watergate, he sabotaged Johnson’s peace talks with Vietnam, prolonging the war thus costing between twenty to thirty thousand American lives. Nevertheless, his visit to China led to diplomatic relations between the two countries and he initiated the Anti-Balistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union. His administration generally transferred power from Washington D.C. to the states, enforced desegregation of Southern schools and established the Environmental Protection Agency. Contrast that to Trump, who started a trade war with China, threatened a new nuclear arms race, is a racist and has turned the EPA over to fossil fuel lobbyists.
Then there’s Ronald Reagan, who Republicans regard as some sort of deity. Although Trump often gets compared to Nixon for trying to cover up his illegal election shenanigans, It can be argued that Trump shares more in common with Reagan. The Iran Contra affair is certainly something you might expect of Trump, and Trump’s economic policies are in line with Reaganomics, which also greatly increased the debt. Reagan’s Star Wars initiative was not any more practical or realistic than Trump’s Space Force. But still, Reagan did call the Soviet Union an evil empire and as far as I know never paid off a porn star to keep their affair secret from Nancy and the voting public.
That leads us to George H. Bush, actually a step up from his former boss. Unlike Trump, the man had a full and distinguished public service career as a congressman, ambassador, Director of Central Intelligence and vice president. He put the good of the country ahead of his own political career by working with Democrats to reduce the deficit by increasing the marginal tax rate and phasing out exemptions for high-income taxpayers. Bush created legislation achieving "a better-educated America” and as a compassionate conservative, signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. He placed a temporary ban on the import of certain semiautomatic rifles and reauthorized the Clean Air Act, requiring cleaner burning fuels. The only Trumpian thing Papa Bush did was pardon six former government employees implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal, hence continuing the Republican tradition of allowing presidents and their administration officials to be above the law.
Finally, we have George W. Bush, former holder of the All-Time Worst President Award, until that is, our current POTUS, Treasonous Trump. Although it was probably Vice President Cheney who called the shots, it was still W’s administration that decided to shock and awe Iraq, a country that, contrary to the administration’s claims, had no weapons of mass destruction or any part in the bombing of the World Trade Center. That little case of mistaken identity cost us of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost or destroyed. Then there’s the financial crisis of 2008. Bush left office with America in financial ruins, forcing the American taxpayers to bail out the “too big to fail” banks with hundreds of billions of dollars while the perpetrators of the scandal remained apparently “too big to jail.” The other thing W had in common with Trump was that neither of them won the popular vote, instead relying on the outdated and undemocratic electoral college to take the White House.
No past president was perfect, but unlike Donald J. Trump, I believe every one of the first 44 American presidents put the country’s best interests before their own. More importantly, the members of the legislative branch wouldn’t have shirked their duty to act as a check and balance against a president who was a threat to our democracy, regardless of party affiliation. Unfortunately, the current crop of Republican senators and congresspeople are doing just that. The Republican party has not resembled the party of Lincoln for many, many years. They are now firmly and completely the party of Trump, sharing his values and completely complicit in all he does. The historically most well regarded Republican presidents couldn’t even win a primary at this point in time. Sadly, habitual liars, sexual predators and racists are the new darlings of The Grand Old Party.
In closing, I must note not all Republicans are so blinded by unconditional loyalty to Trump that they have totally forsaken their moral compass. The painting at the top of this article was inspired in part by former Republican strategist who worked on George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s campaigns, Stephen Schmidt. We met at the after party of Bill Maher’s Realtime show. He suggested I paint a piece that would somehow depict the contempt past Republican presidents would most certainly have for Trump. Stephen has very publicly left the Republican party. Or has the party left him and other conservatives who above all believe in a true democracy? Perhaps it’s time for a new conservative party with traditional conservative values to rise from the ashes of a disgraced and dishonest Republican party burned by their own greed, and unbridled lust for power by any means. We certainly could use one willing to honestly campaign, debate and legislate the will of the people. They can call it the Grand New Party