Who Cares About America’s Future?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
In American politics Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives always had policy differences. Some Members of Congress advocated for rural concerns while others favored urban needs. Some politicians supported labor and others represented the necessities of farmers. There were some Members who favored more tax cuts and others who supported higher tax rates for the wealthy.
Such arguments were normal. At the end of the day they came together, generally found compromise, and governed. Never were the institutions of Government challenged. The integrity of the American democratic system was never at risk. American political leaders governed through conflict resolution and compromise. Politicians fought and argued and then went off—like President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill—to play golf together.
As is clear to all—especially after the events of the past week–this is hardly the way America's political leaders see their roles today. They certainly still have substantive differences on major issues but that is merely the arena in which a far graver fight is being engaged. The problem is that neither President Trump nor many Members of Congress any longer truly respect the efficacy of America's institutions, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This is not the way the American system has worked.
The key question is whether there are any genuine political statesmen—heroes–ready to place their political lives on the line to challenge President Trump. In his own party, they are largely political sycophants; and the Freedom Caucus is further out front than even many of them. Are there any GOP leaders who are ready to challenge the assault on American law and values?
Will more Jeff Flakes emerge who are prepared lay down their political future–for him after the Senate–to defend the very institutions of government that they took an oath to protect? Will there be Republicans as well as Democrats who will place their political lives on the line to confront the abuse of power, the sacredness of American institutions, and the rejection of the rule of law? This is a country divided not on policy differences but on the integrity of the system.
Will it take a Republican bloodbath in the midterm elections to wake the Republican Party up to what it has wrought? Elections are expensive and politicians chase the money. Sometimes selling out is not only wrong but destructive to the very institutions and the people they presumably seek to serve.
Finally, one needs to ask where are the true civic and religious leaders? What are they afraid of and why are they also not ready to lead? Are they not entrusted to be the conscience of their followers and their flocks? There are no coalitions and alliances standing ready to challenge the frontal attack on fundamental democratic values and basic morality? This is no longer a battle of policy options but about the future viability of America’s governmental institutions and the rule of law.
Donald Trump is totally convinced that he can continue to bully his way along. America’s leaders appear willing to let him.