The confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was one of the ugliest political fights in recent memory. The Republican Party and its nominee abased itself to unheard of lows in its efforts to smear and discredit the credible sexual assault accusations against him and the women who bravely stepped forward to make their case.
Tantrums, condescension, appallingly disingenuous bad faith arguments and an unashamed abuse of the truth and basic politeness have characterized the right-wing’s response to the liberal concerns about the accusations against Kavanaugh.
It has left a sour taste in the mouths of many conservatives who are appalled at their party’s embrace of full-on Trumpism and has inspired a prominent right-wing intellectual to jump ship entirely.
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Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and senior contributor at right-wing publication the Federalist, announced that he would be leaving the Republican Party — for the second time — on Sunday with an editorial in the Atlantic.
Unlike Senator Susan Collins, who took pages upon pages of text on national television to tell us something we already knew, I will cut right to the chase: I am out of the Republican Party.
I even quit the party once before, briefly, during what I thought was the bottom for the GOP: the 2012 primaries. I didn’t want to be associated with a party that took Newt Gingrich seriously as presidential timber, or with people whose callousness managed to shock even Ron Paul. It was an estrangement, not a break, and I came back when the danger of a Trump victory loomed. I was too late, but as a moderate conservative (among the few left), the pre-2016 GOP was the only party I could call home.
But it was the Kavanaugh debacle and in particular Susan Collins’ vote that made it finally clear to him that the Republican Party stands for nothing but the exercise of raw power; that they are willing to discard every principle and belief they ostensibly hold dear at the drop of a hat if it will bring them closer to winning.
“Small things sometimes matter, and Collins is among the smallest of things in the political world. And yet, she helped me finally to accept what I had been denying. Her speech on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh convinced me that the Republican Party now exists for one reason, and one reason only: for the exercise of raw political power, and not even for ends I would otherwise applaud or even support.
The Republicans, however, have now eclipsed the Democrats as a threat to the rule of law and to the constitutional norms of American society. They have become all about winning. Winning means not losing, and so instead of acting like a co-equal branch of government responsible for advice and consent, congressional Republicans now act like a parliamentary party facing the constant threat of a vote of no-confidence.”
Nichols goes on to detail how the Trump administration’s policies, from his reckless tariffs to his attacks on the FBI and friendliness with Russia, now go directly against everything he’s ever believed in.
But the last straw for him, writes Nichols, is the way in which the elected members of the Republican Party have “sold their souls” to Trump and become boot-licking lackeys, too fearful of being primaried by a white nationalist hot tub salesman to do anything that even looks like opposing the president.
And most important, on the rule of law, congressional Republicans have utterly collapsed. They have sold their souls, purely at Trump’s behest, living in fear of the dreaded primary challenges that would take them away from the Forbidden City and send them back home to the provinces. Yes, an anti-constitutional senator like Hirono is unnerving, but she’s a piker next to her Republican colleagues, who have completely reversed themselves on everything from the limits of executive power to the independence of the judiciary, all to serve their leader in a way that would make the most devoted cult follower of Kim Jong Un blush.
Though his jab at Senator Hirono is entirely uncalled for (he was not in a courtroom, therefore there is no presumption of innocence nor any “constitutional rights” being violated as he claims there were), his assessment of the Republican Party under Trump and Kavanaugh is spot on.
Let’s hope his words inspire the rest of the endangered “moderate Republicans” to follow suit.