Living Large In Carson City: A Republican With Convictions Edition

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In a democracy, you believe it or not.

In a dictatorship, you believe it or else. Evan Esar

This weekend saw something occur that for the past two years has been out of this nation’s reality. No, women did not gain control over the right to choose. The nation’s farmers did not gain a voice in the tariff wars. Steve Mnuchin didn’t have a change of heart and released the president’s tax returns for the past six years. And no, Mitch McConnell didn’t resign his position as leader of the Senate in shame and ignominy. Besides being liberals fondest wet dream, none of those happened.

What did happen was Republican Representative Justin Amash, (R, MI 3rd district) dragged himself out of the swamp that Trump built and defied the Holy Orange One by stating unceremoniously that Trump lied, Attorney General Barr misrepresented the facts of the Mueller investigation, and that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice as laid out in the Mueller investigation. Amash pointedly states few Republicans bothered to read Mueller’s findings. First elected to Congress in 2011, up until this weekend, this darling of the Tea Party has more or less toed the party line voting 62% of the time with Trump supported issues. Yet, through his careful reading and interpretation of the redacted Mueller report, he came to this conclusion,

People who say there were no underlying crimes and therefore the president could not have intended to illegally obstruct the investigation—and therefore cannot be impeached—are resting their argument on several falsehoods: — Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 20, 2019

That is a pretty way of saying Barr, Trump, and the feckless GOP are lying or are just too lazy to read the full report, think for themselves, and come up with the obvious conclusion Amash came to almost immediately. Let that sink in. A staunch conservative read the Mueller report and came to the same conclusion as the Democratic Party regarding Mueller’s findings. There was no exoneration. There was no witch hunt. There were only facts and the condemning assumptions that came along with the report.

As America has come to expect, the unholy backlash against Amash has been overwhelming, constant, and not just a little crazy inspiring in the president. Of course, Trump’s reaction was expected. His response has been brutal, cowardly, and without merit. Americans have come to expect bellicosity and outrage as the go-to emotional Trump response. Amash stood up to the leader of his party and seriously put in question his own reelection in the 2013 primary. Indeed, a primary challenger stepped up immediately after Amash’s Tweet and has been given the thumbs up Trump and his minions.

No, Trump’s response has been nothing out of the ordinary. His modus operandi in any situation where someone stands up to his bullying has been to hit back . . . hard and to continue with a kamikaze like attack strategy not unlike America saw against Stormy Daniels, James Comey, Mueller, Michael Kohn, and a laundry list of cabinet members who had the temerity to speak truth to Trump’s false power. Amash obviously expected the president’s reaction and has doubled down in a series of Tweets clarifying his assertions made a few days ago.  From The Hill,

Amash argued it would be inaccurate to say “there were no underlying crimes” revealed by Mueller’s investigation, that obstruction of justice requires an underlying crime, that the president should be allowed to use any means to end a so-called frivolous investigation, and that the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” requires actual criminal charges.

While the unlikely hero of the day, Amash, and Trump participate in the hissy fit du jour, the Republican Party has sat back and thoughtfully contemplated the situation, weighing the veracity of both sides of the argument . . . not! In what has become an incomprehensible pattern, Republican Senators and Representatives alike have turned over on their backs, kicking their heels in the air and crying crocodile tears while they loudly call foul. These are supposedly intelligent, educated men and women, many of whom are lawyers themselves, but choose to turn their back on the rule of law and continue to support a man who has essentially tossed the Constitution out the window to suit his whims and fancies.

Here is just a sample,

In the 48 hours that followed Amash’s intervention, the five-term libertarian was rebuked by the president, dismissed by Republican colleagues and challenged from the right in his district.

Trump said he was “never a fan” of the congressman he called “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy”.

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, accused him of “parroting the Democrats’ talking points on Russia”. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, questioned if he was truly a Republican. The Guardian

Quick to circle the wagons and condemn anyone who criticizes the president, Republicans have effectively abrogated their power and sullied their oath of office to placate a man who’s questionable morality and grasp on reality is questioned by  many Americans. A majority of Americans do not approve of the president’s tenure in office, yet this fact seems to escape the vast majority of Republicans. One former Republican and Trump critic, Jennifer Rubin, has harsh words for her former party and its members. She wrote shortly after the avalanche of criticism of Amash began. She wrote in a column for The Washington Post,

So we return to the question that vexes NeverTrumpers and Democrats: Why are Republicans such quivering sycophants, willing to lie and debase themselves in support of an unpopular president who is repudiating many of the principles they have spent their lives advancing? The Washington Post

In answer to her question, she comes up with three distinct “categories” of Republicans and for the reasons they justify their support for Trump. Rubin calls the first group the “cynics”. These are Republicans who know Trump is not up to the job but see an opportunity to get as many Republican “wins” as possible as in federal judgeships, lower taxes, and the opportunity to “bolster their resumes” by having been a part of the Trump presidency.

Her second category is really a pitiable group who fear that if they cross Trump they will lose their jobs either in government or in the public sphere in terms of “think tanks, right-wing media, donors, . . . No plum lobbying gigs, Fox contributorships for them” Rubin writes. They fear “ostracism would ruin them financially and personally”, so they swallow what little pride they have and make a deal with the devil to ensure on some level they retain their tarnished bona fides.

Finally, Rubin points to the a vast category that may be the worst of the lot, “cranks and haters”. This group includes the deplorables, white nationalists, the ultra conservatives and a vast majority of white people willing to push the limits of the Constitution to ensure they retain a rapidly shrinking place in an ever-increasingly diverse America. An America they believe seems to be leaving them behind in favor of brown and black people, non-Christians, people of different sexual orientations, and others who aren’t like them. You have to admire Rubin’s prescient insight into the party she supported for years, but in the end, had to admit little resembles the one she knew in the past. Her assessment of Amash is both admirable and spot on.

Beyond the optics and delight liberals take in seeing the president brought down a notch by one of his own, Amash as done something that Republicans and not a few Democrats are wont to do: Stand on principle and defend the Constitution which is under attack by this administration. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer have “rational” arguments against impeaching the president, arguing without Republican support impeachment would be dead in the water in the Senate.

This is hard to argue against, but when coupled with the all assault on Congress’s lawful task of oversight, that argument will eventually have to be overcome and impeachment follow unless things change. No American wants to see the country go through the impeachment process; it’s a nasty, soul-killing event that does the country no good. However, sometimes, bad apples have to be culled, or chance losing the entire crop. Amash’s stance, as brave and laudatory that it is, probably will not start a movement in the Republican Party to stand up to Trump. Yet, it is a chink in what was once a formidable cloak Trump surrounded himself in for the last two years. One has to wonder how far down the rabbit hole America slides before men and women of conscience say no more.

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