Meaningful resistance to Donald Trump ultimately will require participation of Republicans—his supporters, financial backers, Congressional allies, cabinet, the people who now surround, encourage, manipulate, and enable him. Until enough Republicans fear that his impulsiveness, ignorance, and refusal to accept counsel are going to destroy not only his presidency but the GOP itself, nothing will stop him.
Democrats can resist, organize, demand answers, delay action on his appointments and programs, but they cannot prevent his destruction of our egalitarian republic, the Obama legacy, the social safety net, the environment, and our network of foreign allies, leaving himself and the country isolated.
So far the leading Republicans who have expressed doubts about him publicly have not found the courage to stand up and oppose him when it counted.
When Trump promised during the campaign to ban Muslims from entering the United States Vice President Pence called it “offensive and unconstitutional,” the House Speaker Paul Ryan said that idea was “not conservatism,” and his Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell described the plan as “completely and totally inconsistent with American values” and “a bad idea.”
In his first week in office Trump executed his promise amidst a blizzard of unvetted executive orders with little thought given to their effect. Ryan endorsed Trump’s immigration plan, McConnell refused to criticize it, Pence smiled and applauded. Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, all of whom had expressed doubts, passed up the opportunity to question Trump’s attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions of Alabama about it during his confirmation hearing.
When Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee sought further questioning of Rep. Tom Price, whom they were considering for secretary of health and human services, and Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee for treasury secretary, the committee chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah rushed through a suspension of committee rules to approve the two confirmations without a quorum. The vote, taken without a single Democrat in the room, was 14-0.
The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Jason Chaffetz has flatly ignored Democrats’ pleas to look into Trump’s multiple conflicts of interest, especially those that suggest vulnerability to Russian blackmail.
Throughout Barack Obama’s two terms in office Republicans in Congress were united, not only in opposing, but obstructing his every initiative, even to the extent of violating the Constitution which required them to consider his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. For nearly a year they refused Garland a hearing or a vote, hoping to assure a Republican appointment.
They did not succeed in McConnell’s stated goal of making Obama a one-term president, but they have contributed greatly to the conversion of America to a one-party state. And now they are enabling a president who is a careless, impulsive narcissist driven to control both the media and the judiciary while McConnell, Ryan, and the old white men who follow their leadership are rendering Democratic votes irrelevant.
Yes, Republicans did win control of both houses in free and open elections. Yes, Trump won the electoral college vote. Their victories are accepted as legitimate. Our Constitution does not require a two-party system. But our democracy is built upon cooperation between two parties. Single-party states do not work. And Republicans now just don’t seem to admit that. Rendering opposition parties irrelevant is the first objective of dictators.
Here is one way we can encourage these Republicans to act responsibly:
Either these Republicans do not see that a one-party state with an unbalanced president is a single step from outright fascism or they do not care because they are terrified of losing their own power. Republicans created this presidency and only Republicans can end it—by impeachment, by rejecting their incumbent in four years, or by persuading him to follow the Nixonian precedent.
If they do nothing, the ugly and painful result will wear the Republican label.