February 12, 2022

Smackdown: a GOP Reckoning.

by Hal Gershowitz

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“January 6th was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. Lives were lost and people were injured…President Trump is wrong…There is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American President.” Republican, Vice President Mike Pence.

“It was a violent insurrection to try to prevent a peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.” Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

“What we saw in the nation’s Capital was not just an attack on the people’s representatives or historic buildings, and our law enforcement, it was an attack on the rule of law, the foundations of self-government, and who we are as Americans.” Republican Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland

“Democracy is fragile; it cannot survive without leaders of integrity and character who care more about the strength of our Republic than about winning the next election.” Republican Senator Mitt Romney, Utah. 

“Any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States, is clearly unfit for future office,” Republican Liz Cheney, Representative, Wyoming.

“We are duty-bound to conduct a full investigation of the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814 and to make sure it can never happen again.” Republican, Adam Kinzinger, Representative, Illinois

But then there is this description of the January 6th insurrection from the Republican National Committee: “…ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse.” This statement was edited out of the RNC official resolution after the strong smackdown from many indignant Republicans. However, it is worth noting that this statement was deliberately edited into the original RNC resolution before it was edited out. The Republican National Committee was determined to make the case that the insurrection was nothing more than good old-fashioned American politics as usual. That’s just how tone-deaf the GOP has become.

All of the Republicans quoted at the top of this column have been declared to be RINO’s (Republican in Name Only) because this derogatory term has devolved to simply mean anyone who has displeased Donald Trump. That is the state to which the Republican Party has descended today.

History will not be kind to the Republican Party or to the politicians who are feasting at this demagogic spread. Whether the Grand Old Party is dead or simply dying, we can certainly conclude that the GOP isn’t well. Perhaps, the patient is not quite finished, but only deathly sick, in which case the Party, like the sick, can heal. The Republican Party doesn’t have to fall in line or conform to any orthodoxy to heal itself. It merely has to extricate itself from the clutches of a self-absorbed, would-be authoritarian leading their Party to ruin, just as he caused the Party to lose the Presidency and the United States Senate in the last election with his crude, inflammatory and destructive overreach.

It pains me to observe the recklessness and complete abandon with which the Republican Party’s verbose shakers and movers are driving the GOP to destruction. I remember, so well, another time in the not-so-distant past when other Republicans saw irresponsible leadership at the helm of their Party and stood up and said, “Enough!” I urge the reader to google “Larry Hogan Watergate.”

You will see a courageous young Republican congressman, the late Larry Hogan who was my dear friend and former business partner and the father of the current Governor of Maryland. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon, Hogan took a stand that he knew would cost him his seat in Congress. Hogan, a conservative Republican and a presumed Nixon loyalist, announced that he was voting for all three Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon. He knew a vengeful Republican Party would cast him out at the next Primary for calling out a President who had gone terribly rogue. Hogan called me the night before he made his decision public. He was heartsick, but his allegiance to the Republic far outweighed his allegiance to the Party. Hogan was a popular three-term Republican congressman in a heavily Democratic district. The Republicans did, indeed, cast him out, as he knew they would. They went on to inglorious defeat in the next general election, and no Republican has ever held that seat since.

The Trump’s, the Matt Gaetz’s, Margorie Taylor Greene’s, the Madison Cawthorn’s, the Ted Cruz’s, the Josh Hawley’s, and the Kevin McCarthy’s have all placed personal ambition above personal integrity. The next Republican Primary might treat them well. History, however, will not.

The potential for turmoil such as that which we are experiencing was foreseen and feared by our earliest statesmen. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln all expressed concern about the durability of the grand American experiment. They understood man’s brightest promise but also man’s darkest proclivities. They understood the frailties and temperament that lurk within a body politic. Franklin and Lincoln both warned of the fragility of our democracy.   Washington wrote of his fear of an emerging loyalty to Party instead of to country. He wrote of his fear of a looming “spirit of revenge” and the rise of “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” who would “usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterward the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” Pretty prescient, I would say.

Franklin, of course, warned that we had “a Republic if we could keep it,” and Lincoln warned, “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

So, January 6th was, indeed, among the most tragic days in our history. Like the Civil War, it was a culmination of the worst fears of our greatest patriots. The circumstances were unique. The violence and the turmoil were not.

There has rarely been a time in our history when some Americans have not been willing to rise up against other Americans or the established order. Sometimes, the American dream has descended into an American nightmare. The threat of violence in America is as American as apple pie. The deadliest war in our history was when Americans fought other Americans. Some, it seems, are still fighting that war.

 And some have waged other violent battles in America to address their grievances. A few years after the American Revolution, Daniel Shays led a small army of disgruntled armed citizens to attack federal courts and other installations during a time of economic stress. Shays’ rebellion was quashed but was followed by the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s and Fries’ Rebellion in 1790.

Following the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, four days of violent riots broke out in New York City over the military draft. Black men were lynched, homes ransacked and demolished, a black children’s orphanage burned down, and more than a hundred Americans were killed. And in Wilmington, North Carolina, there was an insurrection in 1898 that was nothing more than a racist uprising involving 2,000 armed white men spurred on by Democratic white-supremacist politicians and businessmen. They were simply intent on dissolving the city’s biracial, majority-Republican government. By the time it was quelled, dozens of black Americans had been gunned down in the streets, and the offices of an African-American newspaper torched.

There have been many other occasions in our history, and in each century, when well-organized violence became the course de jure for those who coveted chaos as a means to address their grievances or their schemes to either grab or hold onto power. But none, until last year, were instigated and cheered on by a sitting President of the United States.

The Republican Party should do well in the upcoming midterm elections, just as the Party out of power generally does well in these off-year contests, especially when the president in power is seen by many as less than inspiring. However, the current GOP seems just irresponsible enough to snatch defeat from the victory that would, by tradition, be theirs to claim.

The Republican Party will live on in name as long as any man or woman chooses to call himself or herself a Republican. The real Republican Party, however, was born out of principle, but that Party, today, is now heavily populated by the most unprincipled politicians ever sent to Washington.

Major political parties in America have, in the past, risen and fallen. None have a birthright to endure. The recklessness of those who control the Republican Party today will define its place in history. It doesn’t look good.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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11 responses to “Smackdown: a GOP Reckoning.”

  1. Steve says:

    A superb essay about the state of our union.

  2. Perry Altshule says:

    Wonderful column about America’s divisive back ground. The true difference between now and then is the presence of such large numbers of each party rather than a small group of dissidents. These dissidents in the past were small groups that were protesting usually a single issue
    Trump has, in my opinion, allows us to hate and follow a man in a messianic fashion. Pitting proven lies as truth and a large portion of our country follow blindly

  3. Ray Galante says:

    Well analyzed, Hal. Pity the devoted Republican voter, frustrated with crazy leadership; fearful of Trump’s control. Make room for Larry Hogan. Time to boost a seasoned winner.

  4. Perry says:

    Great history but in fact it is history and right now the immediate problem is the current
    administration and their seeming lack of confidence in any direction.
    A true attack on our Democracy is the politicizing of the DOJ,FBI,IRS,DOE, under this administration.
    The cry that Trump was Autocratic is valid but this administration has proven itself
    to be the most autocratic in history as well.
    At least under Trump we were not in a Hot War, we were without shortages of food and
    supplies,Inflation was not a factor, borders were being strengthened and people were working.
    Please Mr Gershowitz, Trump is history we need a leader capable to lead.

  5. Stephen Prover says:

    Perry,
    Your weekly response to this column’s measured and accurate description of the state of the Republican Party, it’s bizarre, tragic, all in devotion to Trump and Trump himself is to repeat, almost verbatim, wildly exaggerated attacks upon President Biden… When will you and your fellow Trump worshipers abandon this poorly disguised denial and actually abandon
    this pathological adoration that permeates your public statements and those of the other members of the toxic Republican base…

  6. BLB says:

    For those of you who continue to ASSUME that any comments supporting conservative ideas is a devotion to Trump, should reassess your comments. Since the only commentary published in this column continues to be about the past administration, it’s difficult to respond otherwise.

    Perhaps a commentary on the divisiveness of the Democratic Party would give your readers a more balanced approach. As I was reading this commentary, I was imagining the Democrat Party as well….except that you always revert your comments back to Trump (who, as Perry says is History).

    The Democratic Party is severely divided, so much that they, despite holding the majority in all three levels of government, cannot get legislation passed, and is leading our country to destruction before our very eyes. Please devote as many segments, or ANY segments, to addressing what is positive and what has been accomplished by the current administration.
    I, for one, am very scared for our country for the next three years…..as the current Party has almost destroyed our American democracy in one year as they continue to lead us down the path to socialism/Marxism or whatever you want to call this autocratic and incompetent conglomeration in the White House and Cabinet and Congress. I would welcome comments on the positive aspects of the current administration’s accomplishments as we sit on the brink of yet another clumsy and inept military debacle.

    The American public is very aware that the constant reference to Jan 6th is the only political tool
    that the Democrat party and their cohorts in the Media have to use to continuously exploit ahead of the mid-terms. It’s beginning to fall on deaf ears.

  7. Stephen Prover says:

    BLB, Is seems the only response you can muster is to made an ad hominem attack on Biden and/or scream “Marxism” “Socialism”…. Speak about “fall on deaf ears”. Very briefly the definition of socialism:
    Socialism is a political, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production.
    Instead of screaming “socialism” please give one example of any Democratic Administration attempting to control the means of production…, Please don’t retort by citing “socialized medicine”… Virtually every developed country on the planet has some form of socialized medicine…

  8. Irwin yablans says:

    It’s sad that so many Republicans in2016 were not “prescient” enough to see the awful danger that Donald Trump posed to American democracy. I remember one conversation with a dear friend, who when challenged about Trumps candidacy,replied “anyone but Hillary” and upon his wining the presidency said “let’s give him a chance”

  9. Shirley says:

    Excellent Essay, Hal. It’s a sad state of affairs when our political leaders, who were voted in office for their brilliant candor, cannot see truth when it’s staring right at them.

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