Where Is the Bottom?

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

How low can Republicans stoop? Every time I think Republicans have hit rock bottom in subservience to former President Donald Trump, willingness to participate in the overthrow of the U.S. government and/or cover up the January 6 insurrection, or jeopardize the health and well-being of their constituents, they shatter the floor with new desperate and dangerous actions.

I should stop being surprised. After all, the modern Republican Party has become a terrorist and/or criminal enterprise. And, its behavior is going to get worse and worse until the voters give Republican candidates such a thumping at the polls that Republicans either have to change course or go the way of the Federalist and Whig Parties. Probably the latter, because there is no bottom for the Republican Party.

A recent shocker — though at this point, not much they do shocks — from Republicans: A memo written by Trump loyalist lawyer John Eastman — discussed in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book Peril and obtained by CNN — shows Republicans discussing, and apparently seriously considering, how to overturn the results of the presidential election, which Joe Biden won in a free and fair vote. Eastman’s conspiratorial plot was simple in its proposed execution and deplorable in its probable results. Eastman suggested Vice President Mike Pence — presiding over the joint session of Congress meeting on January 6 to certify the election results — should declare that there are no valid electors from seven closely contested states that recount after recount, and court case after court case, show Biden won. That would give, Eastman proffered, Trump victory in the Electoral College by a tally of 232 to 222.

If the Democrats “howl” no fair since 270 electoral votes are required to win, Eastman said, “fine,” send the matter to the House of Representatives where each state has one vote. Since Republicans control a majority of state delegations, Trump would be re-elected in this scenario. There is more to the memo — such as a filibuster in the Senate by some Republicans to prevent certification of the election results if and when both chambers considered the results — but Eastman’s intended result is clear: Overturning the will of the voters who gave Biden a solid majority in both the popular vote and the Electoral College. 

That Trump was intrigued by the Eastman memo is no surprise. What is most appalling is that Pence apparently paid more attention to the proposed coup than was previously thought. Pressured relentlessly by Trump, Pence asked confidants if it were possible for him to do Trump’s bidding. In late December, according to Woodward and Costa, Pence called former Vice President Dan Quayle, a fellow Indiana Republican, for advice. Quayle was insistent, telling Pence, “Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away.”

Even more horrendous: Trump and his cohort were plotting to overthrow the Constitution based on purported evidence of voter fraud that the Trump team knew was baseless. The New York Times obtained an internal memo prepared by the Trump campaign that debunked the outlandish claims of fraud. Despite this knowledge, lawyers for Trump continued to hold news conferences asserting widespread cheating and filed lawsuits alleging a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Trump. It is not clear who in the campaign knew what concerning the memo, but clearly those in the know sat on the information.

Not satisfied with overthrowing constitutional norms, Republicans once again are playing chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States, apparently willing to see the government default on its loans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says “America must never default” on its debts, yet he refuses to provide any Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling.

Raising the debt limit is necessary because soon, probably late next month, the government is going to run out of money. The Treasury Department at that point will not be able to borrow because the congressionally mandated borrowing limit will have been reached. This is routine, and both parties have cooperated in a bipartisan manner in the past to raise the debt ceiling. But, this time, McConnell insists the Democrats alone must provide the votes to raise the debt limit, arguing that Democrats are recklessly spending money. That is, of course, a specious argument since the debt comes from money already allocated, not future spending. And, the debt of the United States rose about $8 trillion under Trump, an increase of 36 percent in four years.

Republicans are not only reckless with the political stability of the United States and the nation’s credit. They are also heedless of the health of Americans, especially children. How else to interpret the ruling from Florida’s newly appointed surgeon general who says it is up to parents to decide whether to quarantine children exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19? Dr. Joseph Ladapo — yes, he is a graduate of Harvard Medical School — eliminated previous rules requiring students to stay away from school for at least four days if they had been exposed to coronavirus. Under Ladapo’s rules, children may continue to attend school if they are asymptomatic.

Republicans are not satisfied merely to oppose mask and vaccine mandates. Now, they are willing to allow children exposed to COVID-19 to attend school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says infected people can spread the virus for two days before they display any symptoms. 

In pursuit of political power, Republicans are willing, apparently, to plot insurrections, jeopardize the financial stability of the United States, and risk the health of schoolchildren. So, the answer to the question in the title of this piece is clear: There is no bottom for today’s Republican Party. That is a grave misfortune for us all. 

Posted September 24, 2021

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