The impeachment of Donald Trump demonstrated what still feels to me like a weird new development: The Republicans are the evil party, while Democrats (presumably now the “stupid party”?) seemed much more sane, moderate, and honorable.
For most of my life, things appeared the exact opposite. For most of my life, it felt like the Democrats were the ones who were pandering, playing the politics of victimhood, insulting my intelligence, and saying borderline sacrilegious things. Today, the roles are reversed. Just as the parties seem to have switched positions on a myriad of issues like Russia, tariffs, and reverence for the Founding Fathers and American Exceptionalism, it is now the Republicans who are viscerally repellent.
If you watched the debates during impeachment day, you know these are not honest brokers. Their talking points—which I’m assuming are poll-tested—were maudlin, offensive, and manipulative.
The not-so-greatest-hits of Republican backbenchers included demanding a “moment of silence” for the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump, comparing impeachment to Pearl Harbor, and comparing Trump to Jesus.
In case you missed it, it was Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson who asked for that moment of silence, which Republicans stood and honored. And, in case you missed it, reminding us that the sneak attack also happened in December, Rep. Mike Kelly declared that December 18 would also be “a day that will live in infamy.”
But if you’re okay with having your patriotism questioned (for the sin of holding a president accountable to the rule of law), you might really enjoy Republicans weaponizing Jesus to score partisan political points.
As a flawed but practicing Christian, I found the references to the Lord and Savior to be gratuitous and inappropriate—especially during this Christmas season.
In case you missed it, Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia declared that “Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president.” (Actually, Trump declined an invitation to testify or to send counsel.) “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” Loudermilk continued.
But he wasn’t alone. Rep. Fred Keller told Democrats he “would be praying for them” adding, “as Jesus said, Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”
Without getting into the weeds regarding either theology or impeachment, it’s worth noting that Trump (much to the chagrin of his supporters) is not Jesus. Likewise, being impeached isn’t quite as big a punishment as crucifixion.
Otherwise, the analogy was... still flawed.
It is, perhaps, telling that at least some Republicans do see him as a sort of savior who is selflessly sacrificing his body for their sake. Personally, this seems idolatrous and blasphemous and yet another example of debasement. Just me?
Those ridiculous comparisons have gotten a lot of attention. But the one that struck me as vastly underrated was the introduction of an idea that can only be described as The Big Lebowski defense: The notion that abuse of power is not a high crime or misdemeanor, but rather, an opinion.
This argument came to us via Florida GOPer Greg Steube, who literally said: “The Democratic majority would have you believe that ‘abuse of power’ is a ‘High Crime’ or ‘Misdemeanor’. It’s not. It’s an opinion...The second article, ‘obstruction of Congress’...[impeaches] for asserting constitutionally-based privileges.” This is a truly toxic idea, which suggests that something must be specifically prohibited in order to be bad.
If ideas have consequences—as conservatives once believed they do—just imagine the precedent that Republicans are now setting. I can think of a lot of past sins—think of any abuse of power that, once upon a time, wasn’t explicitly statutorily prohibited—that could be waved away, if one were to follow this argument to its logical conclusion.
Bullying is just an opinion. Blackmail is just an opinion. Sexual harassment is just an opinion...
Apparently, the “opinion” of constitutional law experts (not to mention, the majority of House members) don’t matter. Must Congress pass a law saying, “Thou shalt not shake down the President of Ukraine in order to hurt Joe Biden” before doing so would be impeachable?
Regardless, this is one more example of how the GOP is embracing a postmodern philosophy that says there are no absolute truths.
One more example involves the politics of victimhood. We see this all the time from Trump, but one obvious case was his assertion (in a letter to Nancy Pelosi) that "More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials." This same sense of entitlement and victimhood led Trump to attack a widow at a rally on the night of his impeachment, suggesting her husband was looking up from hell.
Donald Trump’s Republican Party has adopted all the worst qualities I used to hate about the American left. The good news is that this has created an opening for the Democratic Party to seize the moral high ground. The bad news is most of the so-called conservatives have followed Trump down the drain.