Following up on yesterday’s post—the House of Representatives did, in the end, pass a resolution condemning the President’s racist attacks on some of its Members. It was a bit of a legislative circus, but a Casey Burgat writes: “In the end, Democrats got the official rebuke of Trump and turned the page on their internal party fissures. They are likely happy with both results.” All the Democrats voted to condemn the President’s comments; they were joined by four of the 197 Republicans.
The resolution spent most of its time talking about immigration and immigrants, and quoting various great Americans on the topic of American immigration. It focused on the racist element to the President’s attack, and how much at variance it is with the ideals of the nation. It ain’t wrong.
But it did not treat the President’s personal attacks on United States Representatives as an institutional matter. It’s possible that a resolution that treated attacks on United States Representatives as an institutional matter would have drawn more support from the other Party, and if that happened, the response would have been an institutional response, not a Party response. Maybe that would never have been possible. And perhaps there’s a political benefit to a Party response, to making the difference between the Parties on the issue of racism clear and public. Maybe that has a national benefit as well. But what wound up happening was that the Members of the President’s Party had no institutional incentive to condemn the President’s racism, and a substantial political incentive to refuse to. They were not asked to defend the House against the Executive’s efforts to delegitimize its members, and they did not.
What response would I have liked to see from the House and its Members of both Parties? Something that said: we affirm that all the Members of this House are here because they love their country. That whether born citizens or citizens by choice, they have committed to the work of securing and improving the nation’s future. That they have all sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That they commit, in the face of any attempts by anyone to delegitimize any of their Members, to the full defense of all the House as Americans working to well and faithfully discharge the duties with which the voters have entrusted them. That it is unworthy of the office of the President to traduce the character and motives of the Representatives of the American people, whether because of their race, their gender, their country of origin, or their political alliances. That this House strongly condemns the suggestion that any of our duly elected Members are anything less than patriotic Americans, fully committed to the future of this great nation.
You know, I have been trying to think of where the line should be, the line that oughtn’t to be crossed, the norm that should be enforced or at least that line whose enforcement should be visibly attempted. Was this ‘go back’ business over the line just because of the racism? Was it over the line when the President called Maxine Waters ‘low-IQ’? I want to make some sort of comparison: this sort of personal insult is OK but that kind isn’t, and I don’t know where the line should be. And that’s because other Presidents simply didn’t deride individual members like that—oh, there is always criticism and often acrimony, but I don’t remember either George Bush abusing a United States Representative like that. It’s just not done. Or it wasn’t.
So I don’t know where the line should be drawn, but I do know that if there is a line, it has to be well short of ‘go back’. And while the House did repudiate the racism—and thank Goodness that my Party was at least able to do that—it didn’t, somehow, repudiate the attempt to paint some members as illegitimate. I would hope that the Other Party would have wanted to repudiate that part of it, at least.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,