Talk is cheap. A leader’s authentic values become clear when those values conflict with their private interests. Republicans spent the past half century yammering about “family values.” They even impeached a President for lying under oath. But when given the opportunity to grab the smallest additional scrap of money or power by promoting a moral monster, they took that deal with a smile.
Not one Republican member of Congress demanded Trump’s tax returns. Not a single Republican Congressman stood up to oppose this administration. When principle and patriotism came into conflict with personal gain, every single one of these hypocrites chose to protect and enrich themselves instead of serving their nation.
Mitt Romney briefly raised eyebrows this week with an op-ed critical of the President. He followed that bold talk with a promise to support the President’s immigrations plans which have included a fantasy wall and very real concentration camps for immigrant children. Lindsay Graham spent the first year or so of the Trump Administration engaged in dissident mutterings, then as his friend and surrogate spine John McCain lay dying this past August, the Trumpians showed him his file. He fell in line immediately.
Ben Sasse goes on TV talking about civility and community values, then votes to support every Trump policy and does nothing to stop him. Paul Ryan could have cut Trump off at the knees at the Republican National Convention. Instead he devoted his power and energy to gutting the NeverTrump movement. What did he get in return? His power remained safe and he was able to pass an enormous tax cut for himself and other millionaires.
We were taught to believe that we live in a nation of laws. Conservatives, who love to talk about law and order, spent every ounce of their power in the last Congress protecting themselves and their President from the law. They did it for money and for the tingling sensation of power. Conservatives last year faced a highly visible test of their authentic values. We discovered that they are whores. Conservatism will not escape the taint of this moment.
Incoming Democratic freshman Rashida Tlaib set the tone for the new Congress. At a gathering of supporters after the swearing-in ceremony, she said this:
People love you and you win. And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t, because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.’
In the interests of civility or something, we’re all supposed to pretend this isn’t true, that we don’t see the things that are obviously dangling before our eyes. The truth is that this Congress will either impeach the President, or he will be indicted. Otherwise we will set a precedent that Presidents are above the law. If this Congress fails to bring the President to justice, then the message to voters is that principle is pretense, that politics in our system is a pure exercise of power. Law is nothing more than a weapon used by the powerful against the powerless.
As for Tlaib’s choice of language, we are far beyond any authentic expressions of concern. Nevertheless, Republican, Kevin McCarthy tried to muster some faux concern with this maudlin display of church-lady umbrage:
Do you know what happened in the last Congress when Republicans were in the majority?” he asked. “You know what our freshman class did? They put a resolution together to actually work with one another, to not use foul language. They got almost every single freshman to sign onto it! That is the difference with this new Congress and it’s wrong.
McCarthy just spent the past two years protecting the pussy-grabber-in-Chief and his First Lady, the illegal alien nude model. A man who is OK putting immigrant children in concentration camps is concerned about word choice. It’s the perfect caricature of late-stage conservatism.
There are principled, intelligent conservatives out there in the wilderness, men like David Frum and Bill Kristol. They are politically irrelevant, because the elected officials chosen in the name of conservatism sold their souls so cheaply. After a run through the refining fire, nothing remains of conservatism but its odd collection of bigotries. It didn’t have to be this way, but that’s the choice made by the whores we elected. As grandstanding moral prostitutes like Trey Gowdy slouch down the Capitol steps toward irrelevance and disgrace, our movement is an ill-smelling shell of its former promise.
The easy way always turns out to be the hard way. In their defining moment, conservative leaders chose the easy way, selling out their country and their constituents for a few more moments of safety and a few extra bucks. Their choice and their character will not be forgotten.