Sometimes you can know what’s coming and still be disappointed
at the outcome. That was the case yesterday with the Senate’s votes to acquit
President Trump. There was really never any serious doubt that the Senate would
allow the president to keep his job yet there was always the hope that
Republicans would rise to the occasion and do their civic duty in removing a man
who has repeatedly shown that he cannot be trusted with power. Of course, that
Even though several Republicans admitted that Donald Trump
had done what he was accused of doing, only Utah Senator Mitt Romney dared to
break ranks and vote to convict the president. For that, Mr. Romney is of
course not being thanked for objectively upholding the rule of law and acting
to restrain an abuse of presidential power, but rather is being attacked for
what Republican partisans see as traitorous
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is representative of the
Republicans who acknowledge Trump’s bad behavior yet voted to acquit him anyway.
In his statement explaining his vote against calling witnesses, Alexander said, “There is no
need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States
aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House
managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming
“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign
leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid
to encourage that investigation,” Lamar continued. “When elected officials
inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle
of equal justice under the law.”
Nevertheless, Alexander and the other Republicans argue that
the Senate has no power to remove a president for such an abuse of power, a
statement that flies in the face of the original intent of the Founders.
“I believe that the Constitution provides that the people
should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on
Monday,” Alexander said.
Alexander and the other Republicans also reject punishment
of the president short of removal. The Tennessee senator also failed to support
a resolution of censure floated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).
Yet, despite their handwringing over Trump’s “inappropriate”
actions and their professed belief that the people rather than the Senate should
decide whether to remove the president, Alexander and the other Republicans support
Donald Trump’s re-election.
“Whatever you think of his behavior,” Alexander told the New
York Times, “With the terrific economy, with conservative judges, with
fewer regulations, you add in there an inappropriate call with the president of
Ukraine, and you decide if you prefer him or Elizabeth Warren.”
At least he’s not Elizabeth Warren.
To put it succinctly, the Republican position on Trump is
that the president does bad things but he should not be removed or even
punished a little bit for his behavior. The people should decide the president’s
fate and the people should send him back to Washington where he can engage in
more bad behavior over the next four years.
I have no doubt that if the positions were reversed and
Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren had done what Trump has done, Republicans
would have no problem overcoming their aversion to partisan impeachments and
their belief that the people should decide the president’s fate. For that
matter, I’m equally certain that the Democrats would suddenly become proponents
of executive privilege and limited congressional authority.
The difference between the two is that I expected more from
the Republicans. As a lifelong Republican until 2016, I identified as a member
of that party because of its adherence to objective principles that were not
dependent upon who occupied the Oval Office. Among those principles were the
ideas of equal application of the law, limited governmental authority under the
Constitution, and the belief that good government requires good character in its
officials. Such notions now seem quaint in the new Republican Party.
Over the past few years, I’ve watched Republicans shift from
promising to hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire to making excuses for him as
he flouts not only conventional behavior but the law as well. Earlier this week
at the State of the Union, Republicans gave an ovation to the President who
proposed a laundry list of big government items that would have gotten him
denounced as a RINO in the Republican Party of yesteryear. Instead, Republicans
now celebrate big government from the right.
Hunter Baker at The
Federalist admits as much outright. “In essence, the president told
Americans that he agrees with Democrats that we need a big, energetic government,
but not their kind of big, energetic government.”
And that is the new Republican Party in a nutshell. It is okay
with big government as long as it isn’t the left’s version of big government. It
is okay with government corruption as long as it isn’t a corrupt Democrat. It
is okay with government overreach as long as the overreach is for something
that the Republican base wants.
With the Democrats having long ago embraced the politics of the end justifying the means, the Republicans were our last hope at maintaining a limited, constitutional government. Now that Republicans have abandoned the idea of impartially resisting the growth of executive power, it seems unlikely that there will be any serious limitation on a president as long as he has a congressional majority to back him.
The Democrats will find Trump’s precedents helpful when they
return to power, as they certainly will one day.