Not the institutions, I guess

      3 Comments on Not the institutions, I guess

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,

3 thoughts on “Not the institutions, I guess

  1. Chris Cobb

    Well, it’s doubtful that any resolution advanced by the Democratic Congressional leaders on this matter in any way critical of the current occupant of the office of the President would have drawn any more than minimal support from the Republicans holding federal elected office. They have already shown vanishingly little inclination to repudiate anything that he has said or done; if they placed the value of any institutional norms ahead of keeping the favor of their Trumpist base, they would have shown it long before now. It might have been better to emphasize the assault on the institution of Congress, but as the racism of the remarks to which the Congress responded had implicitly denigrated the right of tens of millions of Americans to participate in American representative democracy because of their race, I’d say that calling out the racism was likely more important, as it addressed the more fundamental attack on American institutions contained in the tweets in question.

    The concern I would have had over Democratic House members advancing resolution language of the kind envisioned in this post is that it is unlikely to be true 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’s probably not true even of all Democrats, and there are a number of Republicans who obviously have no commitment to the work of securing and improving the nation’s future. I don’t think it enhances the capacity of those who are committed to the work of securing and improving the nation’s future to affirm that the same is true of all members of Congress. There ought to be norms of decorum for political discourse, certainly, but those norms shouldn’t include an unearned, blanket attribution of honorable motives to every member of Congress. I would suggest that one norm of decorum might be to avoid attributing motives altogether and instead to engage the words and actions of elected officials. Anything else, as Rep. Pressey has said, is a “distraction” from the matters that elected officials should be addressing on behalf of the public.

    1. Vardibidian Post author

      I always want to give the Other Party the opportunity to be the functional and patriotic Conservative Party that this country so desparately needs. I am saddened as well as terrified that it has chosen the other path. I am always willing to call them to their better—but still Conservative!—selves. But it’s true that doing so doesn’t appear to have any effect.


  2. Chris Cobb

    It seems to me that the only way to give them the opportunity to be a functional and patriotic conservative party, at least at the national level, is to soundly and thoroughly defeat and discredit the fascist ideology to which the Republican Party at the national level is now committed. They won’t back away from it now because they are afraid of losing, individually and collectively. Most of the honorable/honest Republicans who would rather lose than endorse fascism and its inherent corruption are gone from the federal government. Once the ones who are there start losing and/or getting convicted of crimes because they are fascist and deeply corrupt, fascism and corruption will become less attractive. At the local or even at the state level, the political dynamics may often be different. It’s easier to get people to address issues individually, rather than as a single ideological package, and more of the people in government are actually there to serve the community rather than themselves. At the state and local levels of governance, Republicans are not nearly as universally committed to fascism as they are at the national level, so when fascism crashes and burns at the national level, some state Republican parties may pivot from it pretty quickly.


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