The GOP’s genteel complicity in madness

Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose ruthless scheming packed our federal courts with wildly unrepresentative radical conservatives, is at least sensible enough to despise Donald Trump and support federal election reform. For this, Trump threatened McConnell on Truth Social and hurled a racist nickname at McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao.

Republicans’ internal feuding may be entertaining, but they remain on the threshold of retaking Congress.

Before she was Trump’s Transportation secretary, Chao was George W. Bush’s Labor secretary. I was a computer specialist at the Labor Department in those days, and I worked on a few procurement panels. One of them involved a set-aside for an Alaska Native-owned business. The department loved its award ceremonies, and I was the designated recipient of a plaque from Sec. Chao on behalf of our panel for doing as we were mandated.

There I stood onstage next to Elaine Chao in the Great Hall of the Frances Perkins Building accepting a meaningless award. During her years at Labor, Chao never put a foot wrong in public. She did make an unfortunate suggestion that the Blacks In Government Choir sing “My Old Kentucky Home” for her husband at her swearing-in, but that was quietly swatted down.

Much of what cabinet secretaries do is ceremonial. They are well dressed, well coiffed, and speak from prepared texts. A sociopath like Trump who goes off-script — who says the quiet part out loud — horrifies Washington insiders. This is why Chao resigned as Transportation secretary after Trump incited an insurrection at the Capitol. But she willingly served until a couple of weeks before his term ended. She would have served the country better by staying and invoking the 25th Amendment against him, since he still had the nuclear launch codes while being insane.

I am not prepared to reward McConnell or Chao for their complicity in anti-democratic mischief just because they are genteel enough to draw the line at insurrection.

And that is the dilemma American voters are facing.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may perform tolerably after a hurricane, though the Republicans in Florida’s congressional delegation all voted against FEMA aid they will likely boast of later. But Republicans continue to deny the global warming that intensifies tropical storms. Then-Congressman DeSantis in 2013 opposed federal aid after Hurricane Sandy which he now eagerly accepts after Hurricane Ian.

The malignancy of these hypocrites has long been in plain view. So why do millions of voters continue to support them? The straightforward, if unpleasant, answer — to borrow a line from Will Rogers — is that politicians represent their constituents.

Republicans only need a net gain of a few House seats and a single Senate seat to regain control of those bodies. A Republican Senate will confirm no Biden judicial nominees; they will hold judgeships vacant for the next Republican president. A Republican House, bent on revenge rather than anything resembling the people’s business, will use manufactured grievances to grind government to a halt with purely partisan investigations. It will impeach not only President Biden but Attorney General Garland. As for a legislative agenda, a Republican Congress will essentially attempt to repeal every bit of social progress since 1862.

A lot of people react to this by expressing disgust with politics generally. But the problem is not general. It is overwhelmingly Republican.

Numerous Republican candidates embrace the lie that only elections they win are legitimate. If they win this time, they will use any means necessary to perpetuate their power indefinitely.

Republicans are epitomized by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is resolutely anti-abortion and pro-gun. He cares no more about the reproductive health of women than the safety of schoolchildren.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin scoffs at the aforementioned insurrection as a non-issue, opposes marriage equality legislation after initially supporting it, and attacks his Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, for being progressive. Progressives often seem more eager to propose reforms than to win majority support for them; but they are trying to help people, in stark contrast with Republicans.

Republicans’ talk of fiscal conservatism conflicts with their record of massive tax cuts and their demands for ever-greater defense spending. America already is the greatest military power in the world. The limited utility of our arsenal against, say, a Russian madman with nuclear weapons is now all too evident.

Why worry about foreign threats while ignoring the looming threat here at home? We must vote as if our constitutional republic is on the line, because it is.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at [email protected].

Newsletter Sign-up