“As we watch (Trump), we have to watch our Congress.
“I watched the senators go to the chamber the second day after all this fell apart. The journalists said: what do you have to say, what to say?
“They had nothing to say. They wouldn’t react.
“And so we are not just a country of presidents. We have Congress. We have the Supreme Court. But above all, we have the people of the United States, those who vote, those who vote for him, and those who vote for him. “
Make no mistake about what Powell is doing here: He is urging – and outside – Republican lawmakers to completely surrender to Trump’s every whim. She tries to remind them that the country’s founders envisioned three equal parts of power – not a legislative branch that lived in fear of the executive and did everything it said.
Which the Republican Party in Washington has done in the past three years. As Trump was elected to almost none of Washington’s top Republican leaders during the 2016 campaign, after his march on the GOP nomination and a stunning victory over Hillary Clinton, it became clear that he would force them to make a very clear choice: Are you with me or against me?
Trump’s political worldview did not allow for nuances or differences. Either you agreed with him – at least publicly – at least 100% of the time or you were his enemies – and therefore someone you would try to destroy. (And yes, this is an incredibly simplified way of looking at politics and the world.)
So very early in the Trump presidency, Republican leaders had to decide: whether to align fully with Trump (and achieve some of their top priorities like more conservative judges, tax cuts, etc.) or to convince your independence as a legislature and risk a strained relationship with an CEO who could jeopardize those priorities?
Even in the midst of worrying signs, very few Republicans are likely to respond to Powell’s call to stand up for themselves – and against the president.
In the midst of criticism from President James Mattis late last week, Mom was the word among congressional Republicans, with a few notable exceptions, such as the sensory Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
“It’s politically fashionable to blame Trump for everything – and I don’t buy it,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
“I didn’t follow you, I’m sorry,” Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said.
That silence (or sticking his head in the sand) is what Trump bought with the policy proposals he pushed. The unspoken agreement of congressional Republicans was that he would use Trump to achieve long-desired conservative priorities in exchange for the ambiguity of political allegiance to a man who, until a few years before he decided to run for president in 2016, was not even a Republican. deficit holds views that are directly opposite to those advocated by the GOP organization just a few years ago.
No one knew how much the price of that silent loyalty would return in early 2017. As of today, that could lead to the Democratic president and Congress under the control of the Democratic Party coming in January 2021. And even beyond that, Trump’s full embrace and unwillingness to give any actual criticisms of policies and statements that go beyond any traditional definition of “conservative” could advance the GOP brand far beyond a single choice.
The question that every Republican will have to ask, perhaps sooner rather than later, is this: Was it worth it?