BY MAKING PATRIOTISM AND MORALITY COEXTENSIVE WITH RAW POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY AND SELF INTEREST, THEY ANDVANCE THE DEMISE OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY*
Unnamed, Watercolor, 21.5 x 28.5, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
In defiance of a White House directive, Marie L. Yovanovitch’s morally uncompromised appearance before three House Committees was a display of courage rarely seen inside the Beltway these days. Her appearance and Opening Statement (linked below) serve as examples of what it means to love one’s country, serve one’s country, swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and put country before self.
Would that members of the Party of Trump in the Senate had the ability and courage to follow her example. This is not simply a debatable difference over policy. At risk are core principles necessary to preserve liberal democracy.
I am old enough to remember when the Republican Party declared:
“Our most urgent task as a Party is to restore the American people’s faith in their government by electing a president who will enforce duly enacted laws, honor constitutional limits on executive authority, and return credibility to the Oval Office. We need a Republican president who will end abuses of power . . . by the White House itself. Safeguarding our liberties requires a president who will respect the Constitution’s separation of powers, including the authority of Congress to write legislation and define agency authority. Americans also deserve a president who will speak for our nation’s history and values, not apologize for them to our enemies. . . .”
Republican Platform 2016
They won’t admit it, but the Party of Trump disavows most of the principles that once united its members in a common purpose. The Party of Trump has abandoned its belief in American exceptionalism and, frankly, normative values. Standing with Trump, its members now endorse and affirm a set of principles which unite its members in a new common purpose and which stand in sharp contrast to those the Republican Party once embraced and symbolized. Prominent conservatives, moral standard bearers, flee the Party. They publish dire warnings, not just for the Party’s downfall but for that of liberal democracy in the United States. They do so for the benefit of those who remain, whose morality and patriotism, expressly or through silence and acquiescence, are coextensive with the whims of Trump’s political expediency and narcissistic sociopathy. They do so for the cowards, the elected officials who could not muster the courage. If these members of the House and Senate ever do the right thing, it won’t be for the right reason. That opportunity passed.
The Republican Party claimed to be a Party of principle, the Party of the Constitution; was once an uncompromising adherent to the rule of law; recognized and sought to preserve the constitutional separation of powers and checks and balances, and to keep executive power in check; opposed executive orders to enact national policies in areas it claimed were constitutionally reserved solely to Congress; boasted of America’s moral leadership throughout the world; prided itself as a strident defender, guardian and proponent of human rights here and throughout the world; claimed to be a stalwart enemy of regimes that commit atrocities and crimes against humanity; recognized its country as a refuge, and a defender and exemplar of liberty; saw the United States as a beacon for good, where its enemies feared us and our friends and allies trusted us, a country worthy of that trust; claimed to be the fiscally responsible steward; advocated for elected officials to be accountable to its citizens; insisted its country must have fair and free elections, strictly prohibiting foreign influence and interference; refused to accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force — in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere; opposed administrations that sought to divide America into groups and turn citizen against citizen.
George Will issued a brilliant warning to congressional Republicans in connection with the impeachment investigation. In my opinion, that warning should extend well beyond the demise of the constitutional imperative to investigate and, possibly, remove the executive for conduct anathema to the oath of office. That conduct might include soliciting foreign interference in free and fair elections and obstructing Congress’s investigation of such alleged conduct.
“Trump’s gross and comprehensive incompetence now increasingly impinges upon the core presidential responsibility. This should, but will not, cause congressional Republicans to value their own and their institution’s dignity and exercise its powers more vigorously than they profess fealty to Trump. He has issued a categorical refusal to supply witnesses and documents pertinent to the House investigation of whether he committed an impeachable offense regarding Ukraine. This refusal, which is analogous to an invocation of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, justifies an inference of guilt. Worse, this refusal attacks our constitutional regime. So, the refusal is itself an impeachable offense. . . .
“If Trump gets away with his blanket noncompliance, the Constitution’s impeachment provision, as it concerns presidents, will be effectively repealed, and future presidential corruption will be largely immunized against punishment. . . .
“Trump is not just aggressively but lawlessly exercising the interests of his place, counting on Congress, after decades of lassitude regarding its interests, being an ineffective combatant. Trump’s argument, injected into him by subordinates who understand that absurdity is his vocation, is essentially that the Constitution’s impeachment provisions are unconstitutional. . . .
“The canine loyalty of Senate Republicans will keep Trump in office. But until he complies with House committee subpoenas, the House must not limply hope federal judges will enforce their oversight powers. Instead, the House should wield its fundamental power, that of the purse, to impose excruciating costs on executive branch noncompliance. This can be done. . . .
“In 13 months, all congressional Republicans who have not defended Congress by exercising ‘the constitutional rights of the place’ should be defeated. If congressional Republicans continue their genuflections at Trump’s altar, the appropriate 2020 outcome will be a Republican thrashing so severe — losing the House, the Senate and the electoral votes of, say, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and even Texas — that even this party of slow-learning careerists might notice the hazards of tethering their careers to a downward-spiraling scofflaw.”
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers