The Republican Party Must Find Its Moral Center Or Face Its Demise

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

The Party of Abraham Lincoln is no more and the Trump Russia scandal may not only destroy Donald Trump’s presidency but the entire Republican party.

As Russian smoke billows around Donald Trump and his scandal ridden swamp and as information slowly leaks into the public domain, Congressional Republicans double down on placing party before country.

This is nothing new and has been going on for years. Republicans in Congress have regularly put their party’s interests ahead of the common good and to the detriment of all but the wealthiest of Americans. Whether it is denying a living wage to workers and equal pay for women, perpetuating rape culture, or polluting the environment, Congressional Republicans can be found working hard against the interests of the American people and for their corporate donors.

The drive to put ideology and partisanship before people and country reached an unprecedented height last year when for the final year of President Barack Obama’s presidency his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, was refused a hearing and a vote by Republicans in the Senate. Essentially stealing this seat on the high court from the president the American people overwhelming elected twice, these Republican Senators have not only hindered the work of the court but failed to uphold their constitutional duty. Wanting to preserve a conservative majority on the high court these Republicans would not hear of a consensus moderate like Garland nor would they want to give any victory to President Obama whom they sought to obstruct and delegitimize at every opportunity. Instead their aim is to preserve the status of corporate people per Citizens United and dial back women’s health care more than a generation in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade. It matters not that just the opposite (overturning Citizens United and preserving Roe v. Wade) is not only better policy but also reflects a moral center rooted in human dignity and equality.

The Republican Party’s moral center continued to crumble throughout Donald Trump’s campaign as with very few exceptions elected leaders were unwilling to speak out against his repeated spewing of hate and bigotry. His xenophobia and misogyny went largely unchallenged by the party even as it was striking fear in the hearts and minds of voters. Rather than challenge the rape culture caught on tape, Republicans went after a fake email scandal against Hillary Clinton and ignored known Russian hacking to the extent of relying on it to “win” the election.

In both the primaries and the general election Republicans showed their disdain for democracy and the right to vote through all kinds of voter suppression tactics. Apparently, it is not good for them when all the American people get to vote so they rely gerrymandering and vote suppression all the while trumpeting nonexistent voter fraud to justify their undemocratic and unjust policies that largely affect minorities whether persons of color, the elderly, the disabled, or people who are experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Following the swearing in of the new Congress, Republicans in both the House and the Senate wasted little time to begin efforts to seriously repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, despite its growing popularity among the American people, and the fact that repealing this law will take health care away from over 20 million Americans and cause everyone to pay more for less care. Repealing this law and replacing it with whatever secret plan the Republican Party is working on now is nothing less than a death sentence for tens of millions of Americans to say nothing of the chaos it will create in the health care markets and the lives of every American who must worry about their health and the cost of insurance and the care it provides.

Congressional Republicans reached a new apex in moral failure when they could not find the courage to vote against some of Donald Trump’s most highly questionable nominees for cabinet positions such as Betsy DeVoss, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, and Rex Tillerson. No amount of inexperience or conflicts of interest or questionable qualifications swayed them from filling the swamp with the corrupt and corporate interest minded. Even multiple all-night sessions filled with passionate speeches by Senate Democrats did little to move the needle on Republican votes as the American people listened to great concerns be read into the Congressional record.

Still even after a historic Women’s March on Washington and a host of local town halls in which the American people are speaking in mass for the deepest moral values of our democracy and the basic human rights of all people, but especially now for immigrants and refugees, Jews and Muslims, gay and transgender people, women and people of color, Congressional Republicans remain unmoved in their party before county ideology.

Now less than fifty days into Donald Trump’s presidency this Republican moral failing has reached its apotheosis. Amid a growing amount of intelligence information that begs for an independent investigation into the Russian hacking of the election, Congressional Republicans continue to downplay this need. It seems now that these Republican leaders are showing more loyalty to a foreign dictator than they are to the citizens who elected them and the Constitution to which they swore an oath to uphold. And if there is any loyal left for this country it is beholden to corporate interests at the expense of public and planetary health.

As Sarah Jones recently tweeted we need to send American flag pins to our Republican Representatives and Senators to remind them to which country they have been elected and sworn an oath to serve.

Our democracy requires two functioning parties to work healthily. The American people are speaking out like never before in defense of our democracy from inside the intelligence community to farmers in the heartland. Americas are speaking up for the deepest shared moral values of our country with protests in the streets and unprecedented phone calls to Congress. Will the once great party of Abraham Lincoln ever hear their cry? I fear not.