For those watching the impeachment hearings in Washington there has been one overriding enigma that transcends all else: despite strong evidence presented by non-partisan diplomats and bureaucrats, nothing seems to budge Republican support for the president.??It’s uncanny, truth-defying and infuriating all at the same time.
This post isn’t about Donald Trump or his guilt/innocence, but rather how a new kind of politics has now infused many democracies around the world, but especially in America.?
Since, from the beginning, almost every Republican politician or party apparatchik despised Trump, why are they presently kowtowing to the president, even as they continue to express their contempt for him???They have always known he felt no special affinity for their party.??In fact, he changed his party affiliation six times altogether between 1987 and 2012.??Sometimes he’d profess to be a Democrat, a Republican or even an Independent.??He only registered with the Republican party in 2012 as he explored the possibility of running for president.
Researchers and political scientists Matt Grossman and Dave Hopkins have attempted to understand this phenomenon for the past two years.??Concluding that Democrats are held together by shared policy goals, Republicans nevertheless hang together through opinions and values.??And fundamental to those values is partisanship.??Being a Republican now matters more than anything else, even if there are no policies at all.
This explains a lot, but not everything.??Grossman and Hopkins discovered that Republican politicians now feel more vulnerable than times previous – incumbency is not as powerful as before.??They required something more and that something is now a someone – Donald Trump.??He knows all about self-promotion, how to focus on only one part of the economy that gets business coverage, and comes with a solid base of support.??So, if you hope to win again, the Oval Office resident brings with him a full package.??And once you hop on his bandwagon, you discover that you can’t get off because he will target you for all out political assault from his base.??You can get on, you can never get off – if you hope to win again, that is.
And that’s just it.??This kind of politics depends more on the leader than it does on his party.??The only hope of winning is to follow him, regardless of his conduct.??How else to explain Republicans in the House and Senate who support someone who coddles the leader of America’s number one foe, Russia???Trump also lends veiled support to racists, terrorizes immigrants and turns his back on the very world order of security and economy Republicans helped to build.??In truth, most of these Republicans cringe at such values, but feel they now have to stay on the Trump train as their only way of establishing political tenure.??It’s diabolical in scope.
As it became apparent that both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were guilty of their own crimes, members of their respective parties began peeling away, saying the price of their support was something beneath both America and Americans.??The Trump experiment of impeachment is revealing a new way of doing politics by separating loyal Republicans from their party and in favour of an individual who is comfortable with undoing the Republican legacy that is, in itself, significant.
I suppose that in some way we should be thankful that Donald Trump arrived on the scene.???Through his presence in the White House we came to understand that intolerance, bigotry, even hatred, held more of a presence in our communities than we understood.??We understand that the historic status quo and its abiding ineptitude helped to create the conditions for his ascendancy.??And we now see that democracy can only survive through endless struggle on the part of all those who love it.
Should all this evasion, blind loyalty and open denunciation of career civil servants be permitted to stand, then politics itself will never be the same, simply because unprincipled power seekers will understand that they can circumvent the ethical principles and democratic guidelines established over centuries.
Democracy is about struggle, not the freedom from it.??Should we opt out, then we really never understood it in the first place – or as William James put it:
“If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the world by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will.”?