Monday, February 3, 2020

GOP: The Conservative Party Becomes the Party of Corruption, Cover-Up

Nearly 40 years ago, I walked into my first Young Republicans meeting on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.  I had grown up with Democratic parents, but they were not liberals.  My father, in particular, complained constantly about liberals at the dinner table.  When I asked him why he didn't vote for Republican since he disliked liberals so much, he responded that the GOP did not support the working man.  He was the epitome of what used to call a "yellow dog Democrat," someone who would vote for a Democrat even if the party's candidate was a yellow dog.

At the Young Republican meeting and the other Republican meetings I attended that year and the
years that followed, I learned of a burgeoning group of intellectuals whose ideas provided the foundation for what became the conservative movement.  Over the years, I read many of their positions papers, books and other writings.  To this day, I still have on my bookshelves Milton Friedman "Free to Choose," Robert Bork's "Tempting of America, and the bible of privatization, "Reinventing Government."   

The conservative movement was about limited government, reduced budget deficits, a devolution of power from the national government to the states (i.e. federalism), a support for freedom and democracy around the world, family-friendly social policies, a commitment to the Constitution as written (and the Framers intended), and open, honest, and ethical government. It was about marshaling the better nature of people who choose to live in this great country and giving them the opportunity to succeed.  The conservative movement provided a positive vision of the future, a welcoming and supportive environment.  Liberals were not the enemy.  They were just people who had not yet been convinced of the correctness of our ideas..

Don't get me wrong.  The Republican Party, to which the conservative movement attached itself, often fell far, far short in implementing those objectives over the decades that followed. But there was never any doubt what those goals were. 

About a decade ago, the conservative movement, which came alive during Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign, began dying.  Led by a multitude of hosts on FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh and others, the intellectual underpinnings of the conservative movement were replaced by the oversimplified dichotomy, "we good, they bad."  Except that the other side, the liberals, were not just bad, they were downright evil, worse than even the most brutal foreign dictators who repress freedom and kill their own citizens.  People no longer were expected to think critically about issues...instead they were asked to focus on who is for which policies.  Conservative politics became not about intellectualism, but about tribalism.  The conservative media's feedback loop created a flock of sheep who would simply support whatever policy or candidate they were told to support. 

With the intellectual underpinnings of conservativism gone, it wasn't long before the goals of the movement began falling as well.  Today, we have a Republican Party supporting record budget deficits (during a time of sustained economic growth no less).  The GOP has also apparently forgotten about federalism, enthusiastically mandating states adopt preferred policies such as a 21 year old smoking age.  On the foreign policy front, we have a Republican President who warmly embraces dictators who repress freedom and kill political opponents, while that same President, at every turn, undermines our allies and refuses to support American democratic values both at home and abroad..  Today's Republicans, in and out of Congress, regularly support these views, which just a few years early would have been called, rightfully, un-American and unpatriotic.

And let us not forget the Constitution.  The first few decades after I became a Republican, GOP candidates and elected officials bragged about carrying a copy of the Constitution in their pockets.  Today members of Congress, at least the Republican ones, have turned to gutting provisions the Founders put in the Constitution to protect our Republic.  The requirement that emoluments being given to the President be approved by Congress?  Ignored.  The power of the Senate to confirm key members of the executive branches, including those appointees conducting foreign policy?  Gone.  The President can just appoint unconfirmed "acting" officials or have his private attorney do the whatever he wants done.  The power of Congress to appropriate money for programs?  Never mind.  The President can just make a phony claim of an "emergency" and take money from other programs for his pet project. 

But at least Congress still has the power to conduct oversight of the executive branch, right?   Nope.  This past few days though we learned Congress has no right to subpoena documents or witnesses from the executive branch.  The President can just ignore the subpoenas without any consequence whatsoever.  Indeed as the impeachment saga played out, Justice Department officials were in federal court in another matter arguing that Congress had no authority to go to counts to enforce its subpoenas.  Congressional oversight is gone.  Not sure when gutting constitutional checks and balances to give the President absolute power became a Republican concept. 

Then you have impeachment.  The President used his office to illegally withhold congressionally appropriated military aid (a violation of the Impoundment Act) desperately needed by Ukraine to get that country's President to intervene into an American election.  In doing so, the President was willing to put America's national security at risk to get something he could use (the announcement of an investigation) politically against a rival.   Of course, the President does what he routinely does - he lied, saying there was no quid pro quo, that he didn't ask that the Bidens be investigated in an exchange for military aid.  The President then did everything he could to cover up what he did, ordering executive officials to not testify and not turn over a single page of documents in response to House subpoenas.  When impeachment reached the Senate, Republicans complained, wrongly,  there was no direct evidence of such a quid pro quo.  Of course, when there was an opportunity for Republican Senators to get even better direct evidence such as the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton, they said they didn't want to hear it.  The first impeachment "trial" in American history without evidence will conclude this week. 

But it gets worse.  In reaching the conclusion that the President did in fact withhold military aid for a political favor, i.e. there was a quid pro quo, the Republicans in the Senate de facto adopted the doctrine put forward by former Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz which states that if a President does something in furtherance of his re-election, that is by definition in the public's interest, and cannot be a subject of impeachment.  In fact, the President cannot even be investigated for such conduct.   The Dershowitz Doctrine makes Presidents immune from criminal and non-criminal acts, as long as they can tie it to an effort to get re-elected.   Too bad Nixon did not know about this "Get Out of Impeachment" card that Dershowitz, but no other legal expert, found buried in our Constitution.

To say the performance of the Republican Senators during impeachment has been an embarrassment is to be kind.  But it apparently won't end with the impeachment trial.  Iowa Senator Joni Ernst continues to gloat about the trial outing the supposed corruption of Joe Biden.  Back in the real world, Biden did absolutely nothing wrong.  The Ukraine prosecutor Biden pushed (at the behest of President Obama and scores of others) to get fired had long ago stopped investigating Burisma, the company his son, Hunter, was on the board of.  In fact, that stopped investigation and several others is why virtually everyone was pushing to get rid of the Ukraine prosecutor widely viewed as corrupt.  Biden's actions didn't stop an investigation of his son's company.  It in fact, made it possible for the investigation of Burisma to be restarted.  No doubt, Senator Ernst knows all of this.  But one you thing you learn in the Trump era is if the truth does not advance the cause politically, just tell a lie instead. 

Now South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is giving interviews in which he says he will subpoena the whistleblower whose report that sparked the investigation that led to impeachment.  Never mind that everything in the whistleblower report turned out to be true and the whisteblower became irrelevant the minute evidence was found supporting those claims, Graham and several Senators still want the whistleblower outed, which action they undoubtedly know will put his life in danger.  Their purpose behind doing so is clear - that want to intimidate future whistleblowers from speaking out about the wrongdoing they witness in the executive branch.

I have long preached that Donald Trump is not the cause of the Republican Party's problems.  Rather Trump is the symptom.  As a candidate and recent Republican convert, Trump swooped in and took advantage of a political party whose conservative intellectual moorings had been stripped away.  Trump filled in that vacuum with his own flexible version of populism and nationalism, which often had little if anything to do with the conservative positions that underpinned the rise of Ronald Reagan four decades earlier.

The problem is not Trump.  The problem are his enablers, the people who decided to surrender the Republican Party completely to Trump and have refused to hold him accountable for anything he has done.  As someone who studies election trends, I just do not understand those Republicans who think the GOP's long-term future is Trump, a political candidate who has shown virtually no electoral strength.  In 2016, Donald Trump won the electoral college by 78,000 votes in three key states, one of the closest presidential elections in American history.  In the process, Donald Trump ran behind virtually every Republican statewide candidate.  In almost every special and regular election in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the support for Republican candidates declined dramatically.  This included in 2018, when Republicans suffered historic losses in the House despite heavily gerrymandered maps in the GOP's favor.  Exit polls show women, suburbanites and college-educated voters fleeing the Republican Party in droves during the Trump era. 

As far as 2020 goes, Trump runs behind virtually every Democratic candidate and his popularity level has never reached 50% despite having a strong economy.  Any other Republican President would be cruising to re-election.  While Trump may still win re-election because of the strong economy (which he did not create by the way...Presidents do not run the American economy) and the foolishness of Democrats, who appear eager to nominate the avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders.  While Trump is one of the few Republican presidential candidates who could actually lose to a socialist, the odds of his winning go way up if the Democrats nominate someone on the far left such as Sanders or Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren instead of a moderate. 

While the Electoral College and the Dershowitz Doctrine, which sanctions a President cheating to win re-election, may save the White House for the GOP, the Republicans in Congress and state legislatures have no such protection and will continue to lose seats in the Trump era.  Republican Senators, in particular, will pay a price at the polls for their conduct during the impeachment.  Voters know that trials are supposed to have witnesses and evidence and what Republicans in the Senate did was doing was covering up the corrupt actions of a corrupt President.

Most of the intellectuals who provided the ballast for Republican policies have fled the party in the Trump era.  They saw the GOP, a party that used to be based on conservative ideals, becoming a party that is willing to condone and cover up corruption by a President that they refuse, at all costs, to hold accountable. 

As I write this, I see a law school classmate of mine, Ed Adams, has announced he is leaving the Republican Party.  So too has one of my brothers.  That is not a choice I have made.  I think the best choice of action is for real conservatives and the intellectuals is to fight to get the Republican Party (or whatever name it will be known by in the future) back.  There is certainly no future in Trumpism.  The general election electorate is sending that message at every election. 

Today's Republican Party, the conservative party I chose to associate myself with in my youth, has become instead the party of corruption and cover-up.  And that makes me incredibly sad.


Sheila Kennedy said...

Amen, Paul.

I know a LOT of former Republicans.....The only problem is, the country needs two adult, sane political parties.

leon dixon said...

Your ignorance is without bounds. Your reading must be very limited but that is likely also for the declining readership of your blog. I just assume that it is declining along with the quality of it. You are not much of a student of national politics so why not stick with Indiana's version of politics....say, the high tech lynching of AG Hill? You have intimate knowledge of this Kangaroo Court and likely of the Ice Miller lady tasked with your "republicans" last gasp at losing Indiana Black voters FOREVER. As far as I can see, you have a Black Conservative being lynched by your "republicans". Of course, your "leaders" are not Uncle Miltie sorts, or Hayek, or actually of any intellectual persuasion at all...they are the stupid party republicans not even smart enough to have a quasi ideology. Trump does borrow quite a bit from Democrats (so did Reagan) but he also borrows quite a bit from Buchanan. He is no dummy. He has been involved in politics for DECADES and he studies it. Unlike your type of loser Republicans, he has a spine and a considerable portion of other than cartilage in his body. Heard a prediction yesterday that the D's will likely be reduced to only 90 members in the House. Good. Those national D's are not anything like Indiana democrats.
You also have a do nothing super majority doing little if anything for know it. Write about what you know.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Hayek is not my leader? Wrong. I will follow Salma Hayek anywhere she wants to go. Huge fan.

I think the last three years have proven beyond any doubt that Donald Trump is not educated or smart in any way. (Now what happened at Pearl Harbor? Not sure why it's a big deal.)

It's amusing that you think he has some sort of coherent philosophy. Trump is in a reality show and you Trumpers are his audience. He'll tell you whatever he thinks will keep you glued to the train wreck, er, I mean the show.

I suppose you saw Donald Trump pointing and pretending to be a conductor while the National Anthem was playing. Everyone else was putting their hands over their heart or otherwise standing in respect for the flag, and Trump was mocking the whole thing. Wasn't it Donald Trump who attacked athletes for their "disrespectful" approach of kneeling quietly during the anthem. Do you not see the hypocrisy? I think Trumpers see it, they just do not care.

You do know what they call people who fall for a con man, Leon? They're called "marks."

I haven't given up writing on AG Hill. Don't know that he's been railroaded, but the punishment is way too excessive given the behavior didn't really relate to his job of being an attorney. If the DC starts going after attorneys who act like cads, the DC is going to be overloaded with work. The incident(s) aside, not a fan of AG Hill. His conduct as Elkhart County prosecutor was disqualifying. That's why I didn't vote for him at the convention.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Counselor Ogden for your insight and timely reply. I hope to follow your blog
as much as possible. Iam 0ne of those democrats. Also a Vietnam Vet and Nurse Practitioner who is retiring and hope to become more enlightened from your views. Best John