Can Republicans find their red line anymore?

Posted: Jul. 31, 2018 3:25 pm

To The Herald-Whig:

I have followed politics in America long enough to be suspicious of press bias and political opportunism. Of course, memories of Republican opposition to Obama and his policies are still fresh. I recall very well members of my family readily calling him a liar and despising him for the Affordable Care Act. Other friends ridiculed him for his failed Mideast policies in Syria and Iraq.

Although the intensified partisan climate of the past decade probably accounts for the venom in our public discourse, it is not all that unusual. One has only to visit the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield to see how divided Americans can be over politics. Nevertheless, the current climate seems notable in the long history of partisanship at least in the last 100 years.

I understand that most Republicans, according to the polls, continue to support Donald Trump. The columnists carried by this paper daily explain this by saying that despite his behavior, his party has managed to put through quite a number of policies popular with the base. The list includes big tax cuts, dismantling environmental protections, strong nativist policies and anti-abortion judicial appointments.

Apparently, many Republican culture warriors must delight in his daily salvos on Twitter. Although I do not applaud any of this, I can understand why many on the right would. What troubles me more, however, are other aspects of the Trump presidency. The important question is whether the devil's bargain made by Republicans with this reality TV personality and conspiracy theorist is really worth the cost. A central concern for me is the potential that all criticism directed at Trump's daily violations of civility, decency and honesty will in time be seen by his supporters as merely politically motivated opposition.

I am sure that Democrats invoke Trump's failings for political purposes, and sometimes late-night TV cruelly ridicules him and his family for cheap laughs, but it is also worth noting that many others in America and around the world, including some in his own party, are genuinely disgusted by his behavior. No doubt my friends on the right defend Trump as mistreated by the media, the Washington establishment, the FBI because he marches to a different populist drummer whose mission is so valuable he can transcend the obligations of morality. However, please, somewhere, sometime, for heaven's sake and the sake of American civil society and liberal democracy, locate your red line!

C. Patrick Hotle