March 29, 2020

Leadership Lost

By Stephen Tuttle | July 20, 2019

This isn't your grandfather's Republican Party or Robert Griffin's or William Milliken's, or Ronald Reagan's. It is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump.  
That's a shame, because Republicans are now part and parcel of his fear-mongering, race-baiting ignorance. They fear his tweets and look the other way at his lies and outrageous assaults on people and propriety. We have to assume they agree with him. 
The argument for ignoring his misogyny, xenophobia, and racism has always been policy; supporters are willing to look the other way because they agree with the direction he's taking the country. 
In fact, Trump might even win the policy argument on the merits; the tariff economy is rumbling along, unemployment is low, and the markets high. Our current foreign policy is an odd combination of punishing our allies and kissing the feet of our enemies but, hey, we haven't started any new wars, just made a lot of threats.
But the president doesn't much discuss policy. He's too busy responding to what he perceives as personal grievances. If there is a sound policy or issue-related notion in any of his recent tweets, he's cleverly hidden it. Everything is personal with this president.
His verbal assault on four Democratic members of Congress is just the latest example. 
To be sure, the four congresswomen — Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — colloquially referred to as The Squad, are a contentious group.
All elected from safely Democratic districts, they are free to push their agendas without much fear of electoral consequences at home. They ran and won as radical replacements for the Democratic status quo, and they are not the typically quiet newcomers willing to bite their lips in deference to party leadership.
They are also often offensive and almost always confrontational when communication and cooperation would better serve their agenda of Medicare-for-all, the Green New Deal, free college tuition, forgiveness of student debt, free day care ... what some call democratic socialism though it's actually neither. They openly and aggressively support impeaching the president. 
Their unpleasant approach was in the process of irreparably splitting the party. They had been openly and none too politely feuding with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for months, an internecine squabble that was only getting worse.
Pelosi was trying desperately to keep the far Left and center of her party from permanently fracturing. At least 23 of the 40 new Democratic House members came from red districts in red states. The farther left the party moved, the less likely their chances for reelection. 
Then the president, whose delicate ego cannot accept criticism of any kind, lashed out in  a Twitter tantrum, saying The Squad should “ ... go back to the countries from which they came.”
Tlaib, Pressley, and Ocasio-Cortez would all have to return to here since they were all born in the United States. Omar's parents brought her here, legally, when she was a toddler, escaping the horror that was and is Somalia. She became a naturalized citizen when she was 17 and is now one of 29 members of Congress who were born outside the U.S. 
Not content with the first offense, Trump said they “hate America,” should leave if they don't like it, and “they have to love our country.” Pretty funny coming from someone whose entire presidential campaign was based on telling us how terrible things were. 
The unified outrage of the Democrats was predictable, as was the relative silence of Republicans — though a dozen or so brave GOP souls did condemn the president's comments. Most said nothing, or worse.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, now comfortably ensconced on Trump's lap like a Pomeranian, called the four “a bunch of communists.” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting administrator of ICE, said, “So what?” A congressman from New York inexplicably claimed the president actually meant they should go back to their home districts. The hosts of “Fox and Friends” laughed, thinking the entire thing was comical. 
But it wasn't funny. Returning us to the 1950s, when racial animus was overt and calling political opponents communists was all the rage, isn't likely to make us great. Quite the contrary.
The president has emboldened white supremacists and xenophobes and likely endangered the four women he attacked. Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi news site The Daily Stormer, said, “This is the kind of WHITE NATIONALISM [his capital letters] we elected him for.” Given the opportunity to disavow his white supremacist supporters, Trump demurred. 
And while we were all distracted, the Trump administration proposed ending almost all asylum requests at our southern border.
In his last speech as president, Ronald Reagan said, “... if we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.” It already is. 


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