A School for Scoundrels?

The president’s defenders among members of Congress puzzle me.  Less so his support from among local right wing friends.  But finding ways to put it into words has proven difficult. 

Local dedicated Trump supporters are digging in two ways.  One is a visceral reaction to what they see as liberal elitists flaunting their intellectual superiority over the tough streetwise guy who speaks the language of real Americans.  The other is a stubborn refusal to admit they’ve been had by a charlatan in the White House.  They remind me of a recent NPR interview with an intelligent, competent woman who had been sucked into a telephone scam, learned that she had been scammed, and continued anyway, hoping it might work out after all.   A fraud expert had quite a bit to say about how our desire to resolve cognitive dissonance in favor of an impossible but desirable outcome can keep a person from acknowledging the reality before them.  What works in a phone scam works in politics too.

Others, less dedicated to Trump, have spent their lives suspecting and demeaning Democrats for no reason other than it’s the local Republican sport.  They’re troubled by and resistant to the idea that Democrats might be right about Trump, might be the ones defending core conservative values about the importance of the Constitution and rule of law.  For them, it’s time to keep a low profile and hope the whole thing blows over.  

There is a sense that being conservative, whatever that means, is simply what one is if one claims Eastern Washington as their native land.  Recent letters to the editor bemoaning the changing demographics of urban areas in this rural region, attribute growth in Democratic voter turnout to coastal newcomers and immigrants who are not, nor ever will be, true sons and daughters of the land.  I imagine something similar goes on in other regions of the country as well.  My maternal grandfather was certain that no true Kansan could be anything but Republican.  Democrats, to him, were alien creatures of no account.  Why?  That’s just the way it was.

That I can understand.  What I can’t understand are the dedicated Trump supporters in Congress who cannot be ignorant of his corruption and incompetence, even if they’re hard line right wingers, hopeful neofascists, or aspiring oligarchs and plutocrats.  I don’t understand why McConnell refuses to allow the Senate to take up legislation passed in the House.  I don’t understand why Graham, Johnson and other senatorial leaders are unwilling to muster traditional conservative values in support of higher expectations for integrity in the executive branch.  I don’t understand why Representatives like Nunes and Jordan prefer sensationalized tabloid political gossip over solemn consideration of serious matters.  

I’ve written often about the seductive atmosphere in Washington, D.C., not because there is something immoral or unethical about the place, but because it’s so tempting for people to want to be close to those in power, and to be among the few with access to persons holding the most powerful offices.  It’s a form of political social climbing that easily infects staff, lobbyists, visitors, constituents, and Members of Congress themselves.  It has nothing to do with our form of government.  The same dynamic is at work in every world capital, state capital, and probably most city halls.  What makes Washington different is it’s the seat of the world’s richest, most powerful nation, at least for the present.  It’s filled with magnificent temples and monuments to its most revered icons of what America stands for, and it offers tantalizing opportunities to be a part of it.  Money, sex  and booze mix with dedicated service, unrivaled issue research, and commitment to a better future for all.  Working in and through it are other opportunities, and opportunists in for quick profit, that can be had nowhere else.  It’s a seductive place in which we want and need persons of integrity, well grounded their sense of self, and honorable in their service to those who sent them there.

That doesn’t make it a school for scoundrels.  For all the temptations Washington offers, our government has more often been led by executives and legislators honestly trying to do what they believed to be in the interest of the nation as a whole, and that includes those with whom I have serious disagreements.  Washington is populated by highly qualified people doing their best to manage the business of government, and by equally well qualified others trying in good faith to influence decisions in favor or their constituents and clients.  Nevertheless, it seems the scoundrels have taken over in high places, and continuing their scams with confidence that what works on the phones will continue to work for them in D.C

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