The president’s latest racist rant, offensive even in the context of his intentionally offensive tenure, has set a new low bar and made it impossible to take his apologists seriously. Those apologists need to make a choice. The time for politely avoiding the necessary conversation is over.
While I’m heartened by the fact that more people every day recognize the danger this administration poses to our country, I’m stunned and disappointed by the nonchalance of my Republican colleagues. Many of them recognize the very real dangers of Trump’s presidency. I can’t help but wonder when they plan to make their feelings known.
The reactions from Republican leadership to the president’s disgusting comments on several non-white countries – which, in a telling moment, he recently claimed not to have made – have ranged from silence to mild condemnation to full-throated support. By and large, they offer Trump deference with nothing expected in return.
Why? Because it’s the easiest way for them to implement their destructive agenda and silence any doubts about whether what they’re doing is politically sustainable – or legal.
Their hypocrisy is stunning. If the party demands “law and order”, why do Republicans not hold the president accountable? Why do they remain silent when he so openly flouts our norms? The disappointing truth is that congressional Republicans are more interested in their help-the-rich agenda than in the future of our democracy.
Donald Trump is their tool. They treat the harm his behavior does to our way of life and our long-term international credibility as no more than collateral damage.
Trump and his Republican allies have dismantled our institutions, wiped out legal norms, and gutted federal agencies that protect the public interest. They have provided enormous corporations and super-rich individuals with more money and concentrated power in the hands of a privileged few. They are selling off our education system, drastically reducing public health support, eliminating protections for public lands and waters, and selling off the internet to the highest bidders in corporate America.
They seem to think this agenda is worth the daily racism, constant demeaning of other people, and ugly demands for love and obedience Trump issues from the White House. Responsible leaders don’t act this way. But Republicans have embraced this disreputable leadership style and called it “honest”.
The longer this continues, the more American people will suffer. We’re already seeing critical threats to programs like Medicaid and the Child Health Insurance Program that provide important healthcare for the poor, children and persons with disabilities. Millions of financially insecure Americans are being treated as expendable. Funding to support them is being called government waste.
Republicans just created a $2tn deficit with their tax cuts for the rich. They’re trying to use this enormous shortfall to justify dismantling important social safety net programs that help millions of our most vulnerable fellow Americans.
That’s the real lesson of these latest episodes. This crisis is not just about the president. The Republican leadership and many of my Republican colleagues in Congress share equal responsibility for the dangers we face. They made a Faustian bargain with Trump to enact this unwanted agenda. Now, instead of speaking up, they’re playing dumb and pretending innocence when the price of that deal comes due.
Trump forced Republicans to choose between political convenience and their consciences. To judge by their actions, many of my colleagues chose the former.
How do we stop them from trampling on our values and allowing this disgrace to continue? It starts in our communities. We mobilize, we organize, and we vote.
Our ability to reclaim our country will depend entirely on Democrats winning majorities in the House and Senate. With Democratic majorities in Congress, Trump’s actions will have public consequences. He and those who serve him will be asked the hard questions, and they will have to answer on the record. Republican donors will no longer be able to write laws in secret that pad their pockets at our expense.
Too many Republicans in Washington support Trump and make excuses for him no matter how low he stoops. They allow him to drag America’s good name through the mud to reward their special interest backers.
For the rest – for those unwilling to stay silent any longer – it’s time to join us in preparing for a new day in Washington. Trump needs to answer to the people instead of hiding behind his Republican majorities. There’s only one way to make it happen. There is no longer any honor to be had in silence.
By Raúl M. Grijalva
Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva serves Arizona’s Third District. He was elected Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee by his Democratic colleagues on the committee. He also serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as a long-standing member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
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