By Tommy Hough
Since last year's impeachment proceedings, the Trump administration and its ever-present array of constitutional crises has devolved into a cult so firmly entrenched among the cravenly ambitious, the foolish, the weak, and the deranged, that a full 140 elected GOP officials (perhaps more by Wednesday) are about to become even more complicit in the president's daily stream of lies, high crimes and misdemeanors, cataclysmic failure of leadership, and seditious statements on the results of the 2020 election and the normal, peaceful transition of power that has served our nation well for 245 years, in times of peace and war.
These Republican elected officials are doing so at the behest of right-wing radio, TV, and online hosts desperate to continue feeding upon the cult of Trump for ratings, however appalling a failure for average Americans the Trump administration has been. They are also doing so out of a fear of Trump and the wrath of his Twitter account. But more than anything, these 140 elected GOP officials are doing so at the behest of an electorate they believe no longer considers functioning in a shared reality a requirement for the job. Instead of asking the best of their neighbors, they are cravenly indulging their most paranoid and deranged voters for whom reason means nothing – the cumulative effect of 35 years' worth of daily right-wing media conditioning. Yet despite their numbers, they do not speak for a majority of Americans.
One year ago Republican senators were served up an opportunity on a silver platter, with Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee having done all the necessary work, to convict President Trump on House impeachment charges. With one notable exception, GOP senators opted not to convict the president despite overwhelming evidence Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election to aid his re-election effort, then obstructed the inquiry by telling administration officials to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony while promoting an absurd conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The result? GOP senators abdicated their oaths and responsibility as senators, American citizens, and stewards of the American democratic tradition, and acquitted the president. To further pass the buck, they said voters would need to decide for themselves the ultimate verdict for Trump in November since Republican senators were too cowardly to do so in February. And of course, in November, the voters decided.
Now, with even the twin escape hatches of an impeachment and Electoral College-certified election results giving Republican lawmakers all the cover even the most cowardly political toad would possibly need to just do the right thing, those same Republicans still want to overturn the legitimate results of the election – in many cases the same election that secured their own seats – with zero evidence compelling them to do so.
We have reached the nadir of the Republican party, and over the last four years have seen it become nothing more than a tool of Trumpism and his brand of loot-the-treasury Third World authoritarianism. Beyond the steady stream of blatantly false, criminal misinformation about the validity of what was the most secure election in our nation's history, the GOP's ongoing attempts to stage a coup on the heels of their incumbent president's loss in both the popular and electoral vote is a disgrace without precedent in our nation's history – and that includes Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the Teapot Dome scandals. Those were parking tickets compared to this.
I've long said the national GOP gave up on governing in good faith in 1994, but any concern the GOP may have once had about the appearance of naked partisanship has been swept away. It is as blatant a power grab as has ever been seen in our history, fueled by a GOP infuriated at the idea of actually having to relinquish power at some level after driving our nation into the ground for the second time in a dozen years. As we've seen, Trump and other Republicans are not above calling for or enabling mob rule in order to facilitate their continued rule, as undemocratic as even that rule has been. A two-party system of governance cannot function when one party refuses, time and time again for decades, to deal in good faith.
At this hour the Vice President of the United States, as grotesque a Trump lapdog and sycophant as any, is endorsing an effort led by the wretched Texas senator Ted Cruz to deny the reality of the presidential election results. The smooth-talking Cruz and his handful of reality-jettisoning seditionists are well aware their attempt will fail, but are carrying through with the exercise to further bludgeon and delegitimize an already-weakened Joe Biden before his administration takes office, just as the well-funded "citizens movement" of the Tea Party did ahead of President Obama's inauguration 12 years ago.
Of course, this is assuming the current occupant of the White House leaves at all. Despite having taken every opportunity over the last four years to disgrace the office he holds, I'm quite certain Trump will never leave, he'll just keep on behaving as "president" by continuing to use the White House presidential seal after Jan. 20th, along with anything else he and his family can steal.
Make no mistake: You and I and are in the midst of our nation's greatest constitutional crisis since the shooting began in the Civil War 160 years ago. The GOP's blatant support of baseless insurrection in the face of abundant, contrary evidence is nothing less than a slow-moving coup – itself without precedent in our nation's history – and the most shocking, stunning abdication of American democracy and the American social contract.
It is also the only logical end to the steady stream of ugly partisanship unleashed by an embittered GOP when the party first moved to nationalize elections for partisan ends during the 1994 midterm elections, and ceased functioning as a genuine partner in governance.
The Republican Party, and all too many of its spokespersons and standard bearers, have embraced a cult of racist nihilism, aggressively fostered a climate of mistrust and rudderless doubt in institutions they once claimed to have held dear, and have repeatedly fed oxygen into a simmering, low-intensity civil war with one side armed with weapons they insist the other half of the nation is desperate to take away.
That this is occurring – and has been occurring, in broad daylight, for months – in the midst of the nation's worst pandemic in 100 years is an ignominy and infamy that must never be forgotten, if we and our nation are fortunate enough to survive. Generations of Americans, historians, and anyone with a passing interest in this country will be unable to understand how any of this occurred without first acknowledging the successful, cumulative effect of right-wing propaganda, lies, and misinformation on a willing, albeit increasingly desperate populace over the last 35 years.
I only hope the United States doesn't go the path of the Weimar Republic or other faltering democracies, saddled with a weak chief executive unable to rise above the din of a growing, uncontrollable right-wing clamor. I have no doubt Joe Biden, who I genuinely like, seeks to positively serve as a beacon of hope as the nation comes out of the immediate Trump era, but he is essentially a sign to status quo elites that "things are returning to normal" on the immediate stage of the executive branch. That will be a relief in the short term, but if that's all Biden is able to achieve, he will fail.
Mr. Biden is not a come hell or high water, buck stops here, "follow me" leader in the mold of Harry Truman or Cory Booker. He's a political lifer. In an era in which he will be challenged by violent, right-wing domestic terrorism and fringe groups enabled by bottomless amounts of money designed to make it appear the nation is on the verge of chaos – thus setting the stage for an even more disingenuous, dangerous movement to "restore order" – not even a split Senate plus Kamala Harris' vote as Vice President may help push his wish list agenda forward. After all, the most immediate concern is cleaning up the wreckage and repairing the damage of four years of Donald Trump.
Every illegality this nation tolerates, every Republican lawmaker on Wednesday that votes against the tide of reality and history with the Cult of Trump and its failed, reprehensible excuse for an administration, hastens this dark future. Perhaps our biggest flaw is never believing the GOP will go as low as they do. But at every turn, they continue to defy expectations, logic, and reality. Look no further than the root argument our now-former mayor is making against the sitting governor of California.
We continue to be failed by our own imagination as to just how bad it can get, and as a result, we're constantly bringing the wrong weapon to the wrong fight. However ridiculous they may appear, the blatantly racist, authoritarian, violent, modern American inheritors of Hitler's Brownshirts marching on D.C. ahead of Wednesday, in opposition to what should be a normal transition of power, are armed, determined, headstrong, paranoid beyond all reason, and will travel thousands of miles in the belief of absurdities involving pizza parlors and video games.
These will be difficult, trying years ahead. If democracy requires eternal vigilance, it demands it no more than at this moment.
A San Diego County planning commissioner and former radio host and media personality, Tommy Hough works as an environmental consultant and communications professional, and is a California Democratic Party delegate and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.