Political Courage

4 mins read

You may be feeling whiplash if you’re trying to follow all the latest news stories. Here are a few doozies:

Trump has known since early 2019 about the Russian bounty on US soldiers.

After spending the weekend denying that Trump had been briefed, the White House released this statement:

Yeah, that totally reads like satire. How about this one: Americans will be barred from entering the EU:

So much “winning” for the United States. [Sarcasm]

And this: In phone calls with world leaders, Trump is unprepared, boastful and conflates his own interests with the nation’s interests. (Quotations about the phone calls from Carl Bernstein’s reporting for CNN, here.)

When talking to Putin, Trump “took special delight in trashing former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.”

His most vicious attacks were “aimed at women: Prime Minister Theresa May and told German Chancellor Merkel that she was “stupid”:

Also in phone calls with world leaders, Trump disparages leaders of the western alliance, including Macron, Justin Trudeau, and Scott Morrison. Meanwhile, he cozies up to the dictators.

There was also reporting that the U.S. withdrawal from northeastern Syria and abandonment of our Kurdish allies to a Turkish invasion last fall was at Erdogan’s urging:

We’ve now reached 126,369 deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. It should therefore be clear to everyone that the Trump administration is literally leading the US to death and destruction.

Now the question is: What will the GOP elected leadership do?

In How Democracies Die, profs Ziblatt and Levitsky explain what a political party must do when one of their own tries to make himself an autocrat: They must stop him. 

In 2016, this meant supporting Clinton. There is precedent for what Ziblatt and Levitsky label “political courage.”

In 2016, Austrian conservatives backed Green Party candidate Alexander Van Der Bellen to prevent the election of the far-right radical Norbert Hofer. In 2017, defeated French conservative candidate Francois Fillon called on his partisans to vote for center-left Macron to keep far-right radical Marine Le Pen out of power.  They angered much of their party base, but they kept dangerous extremists out of power.

Note: Political courage means endorsing Biden, not saying “I won’t vote.”

Some of the GOP leadership prefer autocracy, are hellbent on destroying American democracy, and/or they take Trump’s feverish rantings as truth.

Some know that Trump is dangerous and must be stopped.

I conducted a Twitter poll on the question of how much political courage people think the GOP elected leadership has. Choices:

(1) None will have courage—they’ll all line up to defend Trump

(2) 3-8 will endorse Biden; not enough to get Trump off the ticket

(3) Enough will defect so that Trump resigns (and isn’t on the ticket)

(4) Trump doesn’t resign, but he isn’t on the ticket.

As of this evening (June 30), 1,768 people took my poll. Here are the results so far:

[View as a Twitter thread]

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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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