The Republicans lost their minds when they nominated a man who supported states’ rights, was endorsed by the KKK, and was accused of having his finger on the nuclear button. His convention was a disaster, with the moderates in his Party only endorsing him at metaphorical gunpoint. He was the most conservative man ever nominated by a major political party, and he only had support from the extreme-right fringes who espoused conspiracy theories about liberalism. And when the time came for Americans to cast their ballot, Barry Goldwater lost the presidency to Lyndon B. Johnson in the biggest electoral landslide since FDR’s re-election in 1936.
Goldwater deserved to lose that election, despite the way Johnson’s elected term in office played out. But he deserves our respect, because when it was finally revealed that President Richard Nixon knew of the Watergate burglary and cover-up, via the reveal of the “smoking gun” tape in August 1974, Goldwater led a group of Republican senators to the White House to tell the President that yes, Congress was preparing to impeach him, and no, he did not have the votes to avoid conviction. Within 48 hours, Nixon had become the first, and so far, only, president to resign.
That Barry Goldwater now stands as a bastion of principle, a patriot who put country over party during our gravest constitutional crisis, only underlines how much his party has abandoned all semblance of courage under the leadership of a petulant, tiny-handed bully who destroyed them with tweets and stupid nicknames like “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Marco,” and “Low-energy Jeb.” When a bully shoots spitballs from the back of the classroom, you don’t kowtow to them, you kick them to the curb. But with the rise of the Tea Party and the high-power donations of the Koch Brothers, Republicans refuse to stand on principle lest it should remove them from power, or, even worse, receive a mean tweet from the functionally illiterate Bully-in-Chief.
Since the firing of FBI Director James Comey, we have seen many Republicans speak out against the President’s decision, and one word keeps popping up over and over again: “troubled.” Take a look at these recent statements:
– Republican Senator Richard Burr, North Carolina
– Republican Senator Ben Sasse, Nebraska
– Republican Senator Jeff Flake, Arizona
– Republican Governor John Kasich, Ohio
Other euphemisms pop up in Republican statements, tweets and interviews. Take, for example, “surprised.”
– Republican Senator Dean Heller, Nevada
– Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Florida
Of course, Senate Majority Leader and President of the Turtle Club Mitch McConnell declined to even discuss the firing, diverting his attention a straw man’s argument that:
And now, here’s what Barry Goldwater said on August 6, 1974, three days before Nixon’s resignation:
“Troubled.” Surprised.” These are not words you want to hear when something this awful happens. Was Abraham Lincoln “troubled” by South Carolina seceding from the Union? Was Dwight D. Eisenhower “troubled” by the racists who attacked the Little Rock Nine? These men acted accordingly when the moment came because they knew they worked for the American people, and not themselves. Obviously, the definition of who constitutes “the American People” has changed since their time, as it has come to include more and more people who demand constitutional protection of their rights, but the President and the members of his party only believe that the white, male, Christian ones count (and they count double if they live in industrial states!)
Now, maybe some of the Republicans I mentioned earlier truly believe that what Donald Trump has done merits impeachment, and maybe some of them are working behind the scenes to make it happen. But in a crisis so severe it makes Watergate look like a dime-store robbery, the heist of the American presidency by the Russian government and the firing of the man leading the investigation into that heist, what do these men do? Nothing. They just present hollow words, meant to let them off the hook for a few more days until the President crosses another Rubicon, leading to yet another hollow statement.
One does not travel the road to fascism only to reach it overnight. It is a long process that involves the eroding of morality and courage among members of the controlling party, so that by the time the dictator has assumed full power, he has nobody left to stand up to him. The firing of James Comey is another step on that road, a Rubicon from which Donald Trump cannot return. When Richard Nixon decimated the Department of Justice in the Saturday Night Massacre, public opinion turned against him and Congress acted accordingly. Public opinion has already been eroding in President Trump – why aren’t they listening? They get repeatedly shouted down at their town halls, hide in the bushes when confronted with their treachery, and do nothing.
There are only so many opportunities left for the Republican Party to do the right thing and save this country from the jaws of tyranny. If they do not act now and repudiate this man, then we must take it upon ourselves to destroy them as a party in the 2017 and 2018 elections. If this is the way they are going to behave, none of them deserve to keep their jobs.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.