The Republican Party Usurped

By Patrick Howell SJ

On any given day, it’s difficult for me to face yet another headline about President Trump’s latest outrage.  A recent sampler would include:

  • Denigrating the people of Puerto Rico as they struggle valiantly just to survive and then rebuild their commonwealth.

  • Calling for an investigation of the media, one of the immediate steps of an autocrat looking to consolidate power.

  • Yelling “fake news” and blaming others; or self-praise and continually changing the topic to avoid any one scandal or outrage from taking hold; blaming Republican Congressional leaders for his own failures.

  • Undermining the good efforts of the Secretary of State to establish working accords with North Korea and to deescalate the rhetorical firestorm.

  • Criticizing football players, especially African Americans, who kneel during the national anthem.

  • Decertifying the multilateral agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear bomb capacity building.

  •  Calling an end to DACA, the lifeline of hope for young, talented, undocumented adults who grew up in the United States.

It’s exhausting just to consider the destructiveness of this partial list.

My question is when will the Republicans take back their own party?  When will they publically acknowledge that President Trump is an unhinged narcissist who cannot lead his own party, let alone the country?  When will the elements of greatness that flowed through the veins of the GOP from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush gain oxygen and lead to courageous action. 

One thinks of Lincoln’s commitment to building infrastructure, railroads, and his spirit of forgiveness (with malice towards none); Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of national parks and unmasking rapacious capitalists; Eisenhower’s building the national highway system and warning against the industrial-military complex; the elder Bush’s skilled diplomatic restraint when the Soviet Empire collapsed. 

The whole party has to rise up to the challenge, not just a few solitary, brave souls like Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, and John Cornyn, who occasionally confront the president.  Last weekend Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn, offered the best insight:  "It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.  Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."

Trump is allowing the party to atrophy and descend into chaos.  A new Pew Research Center poll finds that “the share of Republicans who are very or somewhat pessimistic about the future of their party has nearly doubled, from 20% in December to 39% in the current survey.”  

Pessimism is no substitute for action.

Patrick Howell SJ is the Interim Executive Director of the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, CA.