But it didn’t actually start in the White House. It’s genesis was in the Gingrich Congress and re-appeared in all its anti-governing decline in Mitch McConnell’s Senate. Gingrich adopted a combative approach that hurled derogatory epithets at opposition representatives, impugning their patriotism, honesty, and political beliefs. It’s a playbook Mr. Trump clearly favors, and both men poisoned political discourse, perhaps for all time. Mr. Gingrich’s own malfeasance — his ethics violations and extra-marital affair being at the top of the list — are also a foreshadowing of the man who now sits behind the Resolute Desk.
Disabling, not enabling
Mr. McConnell took a different approach. He simply objected. To everything. He declared at the start of Barack Obama’s presidency that his primary job was to ensure that Obama was a single term president. His secondary role, as he saw it, was to keep any programs proposed by the President or Democrats in Congress from ever getting passed into law. He almost single-handedly made certain that his party would be labeled “the party of ‘no.’” That kept even moderate legislation that Republicans supported in the past from reaching the President’s desk… and from benefitting the American people.
At its worst, McConnell’s obstruction prevented Obama’s nominee for the High Court from getting any sort of hearing in the Senate. It was a departure from any pretense of collaborative, cooperative governing that defines the art of politics — compromise.
Now, as the Senate considers the impeachment of Donald Trump, the Gingrich to Tea Party to Mitch decline into partisan abuse by the majority is making it clear that the only thing that matters is that Democrats lose. The sitting president could be Dwight Eisenhower or George Lincoln Rockwell, and that wouldn’t matter to McConnell at all. It’s the win-at-all-costs frame of mind that the framers, as their words have made clear during opening arguments in the impeachment trial, would disown and denounce.
It’s unlikely that McConnell has a mistress or a backroom deal to fill an account in the Caymans. His interest is Machiavellian. It’s power. But it’s power mis-used.
The wrong kind of empowerment
If the leader of the Senate majority wanted to demonstrate real power, he would use it to assert the equal power of Congress. Instead, he’s abusing it by letting the Executive run roughshod over the Legislature. He’s enabling the man who would be king to undermine the nation’s foundations, violate international norms of behavior, reduce the prestige of the office to the level of a street gang, and let loose the evils of autocracy that we’ve denounced for nearly 250 years.
In the House, the minority power makes claims that are simply not true. They ignore basic rules and propriety and insist on having things done the way they prefer, not the way they were sworn in to follow. In the hearings leading up to impeachment, they objected to standard procedures and derided them as something the majority invented. And the use of “what about” achieved unprecedented levels of deflection.
Are the Democrats guiltless? No. They have their own list of demerits. But their faults are the subject of inflation by Republicans and the toadies at Fox News. Both prey on the lazy and gullible who, thanks to America’s decline in educational standards, would rather be told what to think and to do than identify and analyze the facts for themselves. It’s the Rupert Murdoch Pathway to Profit, and it’s earned at the expense of both a well-informed and rational electorate.
No one gets off totally scot-free. But to conflate a request for another nation’s interference in our electoral process with lying about oral sex is the pinnacle of misplaced priorities. Though I’m sure Donald Trump wants both.