Lucy and her football have nothing on President Donald Trump. Just as surely as she pulls the ball away from Charlie Brown, sending him skyward and crashing flat on his back, Trump repeatedly lures his apologists into cooing about his new “presidential” voice and rationalizing his absurdities. And each and every time, he leaves them humiliated, flat on their backs.
A week ago at the State of the Union Trump declared, “Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people. This is really the key.”
Reaching across the aisle! Offering an open hand!
Monday, as the stock market was tumbling, Trump sneered at Democrats who did not swoon over his State of the Union address. “They were like death. And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
Splat! There goes another gang of Trump apologists. (Now, after media outlets and Democratic office-holders have blasted his language, the White House claims it was all a joke, the administration’s most overused and ineffective tactic when defending the indefensible.)
We are certain that had President Obama said anything remotely like that, the right would have called him a tyrant, a divider, a betrayer of democratic principles.
But let’s be clear: Obama never accused political opponents of “treason.” No president in memory has, because that sort of talk is so beyond acceptable discourse that it is fair to call it un-American. Where are the Republicans now, the ones who insisted their motives not be impugned by a Democratic president, who derided Obama’s assumption that their motives were partisan, and who warned that a president’s words matter? They’ve become apologists for a president who sounds like a tinpot dictator and who trashes perhaps the cardinal principle of a democracy—namely, the right to oppose and criticize those in power.
If you believe in the rule of law, democratic norms and institutions and decent public debate, Republicans must pay a heavy, heavy price for indulging Trump. Whether you think the GOP is salvageable or not, to re-elect this crew in the midterms is to complete the capitulation to Trump’s anti-democratic brand of politics. All Americans are compelled to stop this.