If only public figures’ fear of the judgment of history outweighed their appetite for power in the present.
Throughout Donald Trump’s rise, reign, and continued dominance in national politics, I’ve often wondered about the many high-ranking Republican actors who have become his Greek chorus. They know what a crook he is. And they must know that they are on the wrong side of history, bowing down to an undemocratic man who will be considered the worst American president of all time.
The story will not be tender. The problem is that too many Republicans’ fear of history’s verdict is outweighed by their terror of Trump’s current wrath. The unwavering loyalty of about a third of Republican voters to MAGA means that exposing Trump can doom his critics in the Republican primaries, and it did.
The people who get involved in politics tend to be students of politics, I’ve seen that over the years of reporting on them. Most Republicans know that the heroes of the story are those who stand for principle, even at the risk of losing or giving up elected office. So why choose not to be heroic – even villainous, juries might find?
A modern-day John F. Kennedy might find enough Republicans to write a new edition of “Profiles in Courage.” But his subjects would not be the national leaders of the former Grand Old Party or most Republicans currently running against Trump.
Instead, the heroes were once obscure lower-level Republicans across the country. Many have suffered personal abuse, even death threats, and career setbacks for their anti-Trump and pro-democracy stances, sometimes despite direct pressure from the man himself. Their heroism is clear in the record against Trump contained in indictments in Manhattan, Washington, Atlanta and South Florida, as well as the House of Representatives committee’s final report on Jan. 6.
Among them are former Republican Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, expelled from Congress for putting country before party. Former Arizona House speaker Rusty Bowers was also defeated after resisting Trump’s coup attempt in his state. Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and election official Gabriel Sterling. Loyal local officials in other swing states including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy were shaken enough after Jan. 6 to castigate Trump for a minute. But they came to define cowardice, not courage – McCarthy by his obviously creeping attitude, McConnell by his silence.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp challenged Trump after the 2020 election and pounced on Tuesday when Trump claimed that on Monday he would reveal “irrefutable” evidence of voter fraud in the state.
“For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward – under oath – and prove anything in court,” Kemp told the site formerly known as Twitter’s name. “Our elections in Georgia are safe, accessible and fair and will be so for as long as I serve as governor. The future of our country hangs in the balance in 2024 and that must be our priority.”
Is Kemp’s example so difficult to follow? Apparently yes.
History is written by the victors, they say. As worrying as the current situation may seem, we can hope that democracy and the rule of law will triumph over the threat of Trump and his cronies.
And then future generations will read all of this.
The Los Angeles Times