But first . . .
. . . two unrelated stats:
1. Hillary Clinton won more votes than any Republican nominee in history, including Donald Trump. (And just a tenth of one percent fewer than Barack Obama in 2012.)
2. Between the dawn of civilization and this week’s editing of our own genes, there have been just 400 human generations. It took us barely a speck of time, really, to figure it all out. (If we were fruit flies, reaching reproductive age in about a week, those 400 generations would have taken 8 years.)
And now . . .
. . . nearly as eye-catching as either of those stats is this admission/admonition in Politico from Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ):
My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump
We created him, and now we’re rationalizing him. When will it stop?
. . . we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president . . . It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us. It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.
Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments. . . . Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us.
. . .
[When] the period of collapse and dysfunction set in, amplified by the internet and our growing sense of alienation from each other, and we lost our way and began to rationalize away our principles in the process. But where does such capitulation take us? . . .
[T]he strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives—who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union—that it was almost impossible to believe. Even as our own government was documenting a concerted attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax. Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.
It was then that I was compelled back to Senator Goldwater’s book, to a chapter entitled “The Soviet Menace.” . . .
Our forebears knew that “keeping a Republic” meant, above all, keeping it safe from foreign transgressors; they knew that a people cannot live and work freely, and develop national institutions conducive to freedom, except in peace and with independence.
. . .
We have taken our “institutions conducive to freedom,” as Goldwater put it, for granted as we have engaged in one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history. In 2017, we seem to have lost our appreciation for just how hard won and vulnerable those institutions are.
Congress gets to set its own definition of high crimes and misdemeanors. At what point does destroying the country’s standing in the world and lying about everything to everyone not rise to the level of a misdemeanor?
Without truly wise, competent leadership, will we make it to 500 generations? Or even 410?