Today’s GOP is a Fundamental Threat to Our Democracy (by Rep. Sean Casten)

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8 mins read

My overwhelming conclusion after the last few weeks’ hearings is that the GOPin its current incarnation is a fundamental threat to our democracy. 

To be sure, there are many good members of the GOP. But they are silent in this moment, and to be silent is to be complicit.

So let’s review what we learned.

Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until they “did a favor” for him. Those are his words, in the version of the call transcript that he released

The “favor” was to look into Crowdstrike (a Russian-sponsored, fully-debunked conspiracy theory) and to dig up dirt on the Bidens. 

That is textbook corruption. It is also a textbook bribe. It is also a quid pro quo. These are all synonyms, no matter what the President says. 

But don’t take my word for it. Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that there was a quid pro quo.

Gordon Sondland, who – having donated $1 million to Trump’s campaign and then got appointed Ukraine ambassador – knows first hand about quid pro quos… said there was a quid pro quo.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland walks to a secure area of the Capitol to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump, in Washington, D.C., October 28th, 2019. Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock

And Trump himself said that if he were Zelensky, after the July 25 call he would have investigated the Bidens. And then doubled down by saying China should too! 

So we have Trump, Trump’s chief of staff and Trump’s personally appointed ambassador all agreeing that there was in fact a quid pro quo. A bribe. Corruption. 

So we KNOW that Trump withheld Congressionally-authorized aid to Ukraine that put Ukrainians at risk, put US troops in Europe at risk and benefited no one except Trump and Russia. 

So why was Trump working to advance Russia’s interests? There is of course the obvious financial angle. 

After all, Trump’s own son said a “disproportionate” amount of his money comes from Russia.

President Donald Trump speaks with his son Donald Trump Jr. in January 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

And let’s not forget that even Kevin McCarthy – not that long ago – said that Trump is likely corrupted by the Russians

But there are also non-financial reasons, that may not even require Trump’s intent. Remember that Russia is no longer a great power. Their economy is the size of Texas. Life expectancy is collapsing. They are totally dependent on oil & gas. 

Russia has no strategic ability to rise to the level of power or respect that the United States holds. But they have a strategic interest in bringing us down to their level. 

Trump is useful to them. He does not understand government, does not respect our institutions and is instinctively hostile to multi-lateral, long-term win-win agreements. His mere presence in the White House is a threat to the post-WWII order. 

That makes him a useful Russian asset, regardless of whether he has explicitly consented to be used in that capacity. 

So now let’s rise out of the details. Nothing in the prior thread is especially complicated or insightful. This is basic stuff. What should Congress do with that information? 

Not the Democrats, not the Republicans. What should CONGRESS do? As the co-equal branch with oversight authority. As 535 members who have taken an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign AND domestic? 

That’s not a trick question. But the answer is easy: we should do our job. Do oversight. Demand accountability. Use every tool in our arsenal, up to and including impeachment if necessary. 

Now for the harder question: why has only one party been willing to do their job? Why has the GOP decided to act as the President’s defense counsel rather than as a member of Congress sworn to protect the Constitution? 

Are they just afraid of Trump? Or are they also somehow complicit in what is clearly a large-scale Russian influence operation? 

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence suggesting the latter, from Russian money laundering through the NRA to former Rep Sessions’ involvement with Lev Parnas to the circumstances that led to the lifting of sanctions against Rusal, etc. 

To be clear, those are anecdotes. We still have due process and suspicions are not convictions. But when the entire GOP line of questioning is to weaken US institutions and further Russian-sponsored conspiracy theories, we’re well advised to ask. 

And when so many of the people who have first-hand knowledge, from Pompeo to Mulvaney to Bolton to McGahn are refusing to appear under oath, we’re well advised to suspect that the crimes against our Constitution go way beyond Trump. 

So let’s face up to an unpleasant, but self-evident truth: the party of Eisenhower, the party of Reagan, the party of George H.W. Bush… it’s gone. 

And it won’t come back until the voters send a resounding message that the party of Trump, of Stephen Miller, of McConnell and McCarthy has no place in a country committed to the rule of law and democratic government. 

Yeats has written the requiem for the GOP in 2020: “Everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” 

The GOP has – tragically – proven themselves to be incapable of extinguishing the worst from their ranks, or of providing cover/support for their best to act with conviction. 

And so the voters must. And I know they can. Because Elijah Cummings is right. We’re better than this.

The American people have too much decency, too much pride and too much respect to tolerate those who put loyalty to party over loyalty to country. 

But until they do, those who would defend our democracy and this beautiful 243-year old experiment should not rest easy. Removing Trump, through impeachment or the ballot box will not be enough.

Originally posted on Twitter.
Re-posted with permission.


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Sean Casten is an independent voice for our values in Washington. Sean is a respected scientist, clean energy entrepreneur, and author — as well as a dedicated husband and father living in Downers Grove.
Sean Casten represents Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, located in Chicago’s western suburbs. He is serving as a freshman in the 116th Congress, and is the first Democrat to represent the 6th District in nearly 50 years.

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