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Putin Republicans: What happened to the Republican Party?

On Donald Trump’s visit to Britain this year, he made the effort to take a vacation in the land of whisky and wool at his golf course in Scotland. Upon his visit I’m sure the president couldn’t help but feel a strong connection to Scotland’s most notorious creatures: the sheep. This familiarity may have caused the president to believe he has seen these animals in the United States. He may even fancy himself a shepherd. For once the president would be right; however there would be a linguistic and semantic issue. In Scotland most sheep are called Dunface Sheep, because of the color of their face, but in the United States they are called Republicans because they insist on going wherever they are led, even if it's off a cliff.

In 2012, then Republican candidate for the presidency Mitt Romney stood on the debate stage and declared Russia the number one “geopolitical foe.” Ironically enough Romney’s campaign would be responsible for its complacency when Vladimir Putin spread negative propaganda about Barack Obama’s birth certificate or about the “black penis” of Democracy. Like most Republicans, he was unknowingly part of the problem he claimed to be against. Most Americans in 2012, including then President Barack Obama, laughed Romney off. “The 1980s, [are] calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” the President retorted. “The Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” But Romney turned out to be right just four years later although nobody, including Romney, really knew it. Today Republicans follow a reality television star. They go along with his conspiracies of the “deep state”, rather than believe the truth – unanimously supported by US intelligence agencies – that Russia interfered with our election in support of Donald Trump, a threat that they literally warned us about a few years before. They choose party over country in every single scenario. How did we get from the party of anti-Russia and Ronald Reagan to Republican President Donald Trump prostrating himself in front of Putin in Helsinki?

Unfortunately this has been a long time coming. Conservative Republicans haven’t earned their namesake for decades. Even as far back as 2000 the Republican Party was willing to betray their ideals for the sake of politics, and they certainly have no issue using the federal government when it suits their agenda. Ronald Reagan tripled the national deficit at the end of the Cold War. During the 2000 presidential election Republicans allowed the national government to intervene on behalf of a recount, a problem that was at the time, a state and local issue. They neve made issue with the federal government attempting to get involved with American’s marriage rights. There was also nothing particularly conservative about expanding executive war powers after 9/11 and during the invasion of Iraq, and there was certainly nothing Republican about using the federal government to bail out big banks in 2008. Donald Trump is using a similar strategy today with American farmers, opting to give them $12 million in bailouts instead of opening them up to foreign markets. I am not saying these decisions were necessarily the wrong ones but they do betray fundamental Republican values: free markets, states rights, limited government, lower taxes and decreasing the deficit. This is not even to mention their growing impracticality, like their denial of climate change and the elementary economic unreality of cutting taxes while increasing spending. It’s a pattern they follow, always choosing party over principle, expediency over functionality and power over progress.

Republicans today are at their worst. They passed a permanent tax cut for wealthy citizens and businesses while only passing a temporary tax cut on the middle class. This cut did not include cities or suburbs outside of cities meaning Americans who typically vote Democrat are going to be punished by this legislation. This sends a message: “If you don’t vote for us, we will not look after your interests or welfare.” It is not only immoral but also unconstitutional and un-republican. Republicans are also responsible for the crisis at the border, where families are being separated with no plan or intention to reunite them and they lie down for autocrats and dictators all the while letting a profane philanderer run the show. Republicans stole the Supreme Court nomination of a moderate candidate (chosen out of compromise) only to violate the Constitution in order to appoint a hardcore conservative judge. By 2016, Mitch McConnell was refusing to sign a joint statement with President Barack Obama saying Russia was interfering with the presidential election because it became more important to him to humiliate a black president than to protect and run the country. “Real leadership is not about owning the libs,” said Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah at a High School Leadership Summit recently. “It’s about persuasion.” Something the Republican Party has not been able to do. It has become the very thing liberals always claimed it was. It is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan. The Republican Party is now the party of Trump. Many have recognized this, such as Bill Kristol, Senator Jeff Flake, Steve Schmidt, Jennifer Rubin, Former Speaker of the House John Boehner and David Frum amongst others. Some have even decided to leave citing the fact that the party is no longer Republican. Many other Americans have also noticed this but refuse to admit it; their arguments and ideology reduced to memes and insults since all other fact-based arguments have been abandoned with their continual support for Donald Trump. “If you support Trump,” said former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum. “You will end up betraying every ideal you ever cherished,” and that is what is happening.

How come most Republicans have no problem with these contradictions and fantasies? Like sheep they follow their shepherd Donald Trump where he leads them. Fox News dominates as the main source of news for Trump voters at 40%. It is also the main source of news for 20% of Americans. This is a channel whose coverage of Donald Trump is positive 48% of the time (Around 90% of the general press coverage of the president is negative), and it works. 48% positive coverage is a lot when it is seen by over one-fifth of the country all the time, and if that isn’t convincing enough 92% of Republicans believe the media is intentionally reporting fake news. “What you’re seeing, what you’re hearing is not what’s happening,” said Trump at a Veteran’s of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas and you can bet the Republicans will listen. Republicans approval of Donald Trump is close to 90% and 51% of Republicans approve of Trump’s undermining of American Intelligence agencies. Who would have thought that conservatives would be the ones attacking the FBI and CIA? To make matters worse, over three-quarters of Republicans trust Donald Trump over the media. The unshakable loyalty to this man has really become pathetic and one wonders what it will take it break this spell. After Helsinki it is undeniably evident Donald Trump will basically do whatever Vladimir Putin wants him to do, whether Trump is aware of this or not. However Republicans should be smart enough to realize this, even if their shepherd Trump does not. If they choose to ignore it they might as well be doing Putin’s bidding and become Putin Republicans, which is basically where the party is right now.

Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, had said, “Bad promises are better broken than kept.” Republicans need to abandon Donald Trump in order to save their party. He has mangled their ideals and destroyed their legacy. Instead of being herded like sheep for the slaughter voting against their interests, Republicans need to learn to stand up for themselves and their country. They need actual policies other than “owning the libs.” They need to compromise, like Reagan did, and protect the minority party instead of punishing it. And liberals need to learn to live with them. That’s Democracy. That is Republicanism.


Pew Research Center

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