American politics, like our national life, is upside down and backward this year. Schools aren’t able to open, college football won’t be played, and former Republicans are working to defeat incumbent senators of their old party.
The Lincoln Project, of which I am co-founder, stated in our founding op-ed of December 2019 that we would work “to defeat Donald Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.” Seven months on, as the election campaign heats up and former Vice President Joe Biden picks Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, we spend each day exploring new and different ways to accomplish both those goals.
To listen, read and watch Republicans inside the Beltway, you’d think we cooked up this plan over a long weekend in May and decided to begin “burning the Republican Party to the ground.”
To listen, read and watch Republicans inside the Beltway, you’d think we cooked up this plan over a long weekend in May and decided to begin “burning the Republican Party to the ground.” Never mind that such detractors still seem to have no explanation for why conservatives would want to do such a thing.
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But in fact, our efforts are not about the Republican Party writ large, even though it will also need a thorough cleaning once this year’s remnants are swept into America’s political dustbin. No, our efforts have become broader then President Donald Trump because America as we know it cannot survive four more years of what has become a broader and sustained assault against our democratic institutions. The rapid expansion of executive and unchecked power has brought us to the brink of authoritarianism. And this would not be possible without the complicity of Republicans in Congress.
Trump and every member of the United States Senate who has stood by him deserve what voters will hand them this fall. That includes senators like Susan Collins of Maine, who has fallen into the comic routine of being “disappointed” by the president’s actions, but continues to enable them with every vote she takes.
Or Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who once characterized Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” but has since transformed into one of Trump’s biggest defenders. He’s currently using his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to effectively launder Russian propaganda in a craven effort to discredit the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden. The problem with acting only in the name of political expediency is that sometimes events and karma catch up with you, as incumbent Republicans are learning.
Pundits have expressed concern over our efforts to hold Trump’s accomplices in the House and Senate accountable.
Pundits have expressed concern over our efforts to hold Trump’s accomplices in the House and Senate accountable. That the root of the GOP’s problems begins and ends with Trump. We reject this rationale. These individuals chose to enter public life and run for office, demonstrating some level of personal agency. They are not excused for their cowardice and poor decision-making because the bottom fell out of the world and exposed their frailty. The idea that they would enjoy the same immunity to consequences and accountability that they gave Trump is ridiculous.
If this is to be an argument about ideology and party fealty, I submit that none of these endangered senators can any longer legitimately claim the label of Republican or conservative. Each of them, through their complicity and silence, have surrendered those descriptors.
Once upon a time, the GOP stood on the three pillars of individual liberty, fiscal conservatism and a moral foreign policy. It was a party that claimed to adhere to the Constitution and the rule of law. No Republican leader today abides by these tenets. Since Trump’s election, some GOP senators have become part and parcel of his movement, one that is as dangerous as it is chaotic.
It is not conservative to stand silently by and watch as the president of the United States deploys federal authorities into city streets. The act flies in the face of the rule of law and due process, and is an abusive government overreach. National Republicans now only cry states’ rights when it suits them. For them, if it’s a blue city in a blue state, prep the tear gas and load the rubber bullets. If it’s Trump supporters toting AR-15s and Confederate flags and calling for Michigan (and Democrat) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ouster? Crickets.
As Congress and the White House stall on another relief package for a nation ruptured and reeling from the pandemic, Republican senators are now expressing concern over the government’s spending. This after they already approved $3 trillion in aid earlier in the year. In 2017, they passed a massive, unfunded tax cut relying on the ghost of trickle-down economics to fill a monstrous budget hole they chose to ignore.
Trump’s administration has done frightful damage to America’s standing in the world and our international alliances. We now coddle dictators and strongmen. Despite our intelligence and military experts belief that Russia put bounties on the heads of American soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan, Trump can’t find time to bring it up on his regular check-in calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin. No longer a Shining City on a Hill, from afar, the United States is a darkened shell of its former self.
But, but, but, the experts say, if you hand the U.S. Senate to the Democrats, socialism will run rampant. First, Biden is no socialist. Neither is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Next, nothing in this country, no pet project, no party-line shift in the country, is possible until and unless we contain COVID-19 and get kids back to school and Americans back to work. Are these Republicans likely to be willing partners in such an endeavor?
No. Come next January, they’ll get back up on their rickety soap boxes and object and obstruct anything and everything that doesn’t fit into their shallow, performative playbook. They’ll continue to put themselves and their futures ahead of their country. For that, they no longer deserve the honor of serving in Congress.
These people are no longer Republicans nor should they be called conservatives. They’re scarecrows on America’s political plains, empty husks of individuals who traded their principles and their consciences for political expediency. They bought their tickets on the Trump Train. It’s time for them to take the ride.
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