I am no longer shocked by Donald Trump. He is like the circus performer who puts the whole troupe at risk with his outrageous behavior until something catastrophic happens. I am shocked, however, by the unwillingness of Republicans in positions of authority to stop him—even now, when we have a transcript of a phone call where he clearly asks a foreign government for a favor that is forbidden by our Constitution. Thank our lucky stars that our Founders provided for impeachment or who knows where his daredevil behavior would lead.
I am newly shocked by the official Republican response to Trump because it is so un-American. We teach our kids to shake hands with the opposing team whether they win or lose. We have an ethic of fairness that means athletes may not take unfair advantage by using drugs or other means to enhance their performance. In football, our national sport, we card or remove players who are too rough or who disrespect the referees. Everyone plays by the same rules; we do not change them in the middle of a game. The same framework is present in our schools, and where it breaks down, we say that they have failed. When businesses engage in unsafe practices—destroying an ecosystem with an oil spill, or poisoning people with chemicals—we hold them accountable in court, where one may not tamper with evidence or show contempt for either the judge or the law. When the rules seem too strict or too lax, we seek to change them through democratic processes (legislation, elections, referenda) instead of by fiat or violence. When elected officials misuse their power or position, we remove them from office. These customs amount to a social contract that defines us to ourselves and to others throughout the world as American.
Donald Trump has trashed this contract for no apparent reason except to say that he can act any way he likes because of his office. Republican officials have supported him, apparently, out of Party loyalty and a desire to maintain their own positions of power. No one has yet proposed an alternative social contract to replace the one that is being shredded.
The time has come for Republican citizens who still believe in our social contract for their children and grandchildren to stand up and speak for it and to speak against the behavior that is undermining it. This may be the most important choice any American citizen can make for Democracy in our lifetime.