By Michael J. Cozzillio
I have long yearned for a day when I could gain access to what our most self-indulgent advisors, pundits, and, most particularly for purposes of this message, public servants, say at their dinner tables.
Without knowing, and with profound apology for the falsely accused, do you believe that people like White House adviser Stephen Miller and conservative media personalities Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and others totally refrain from using vile epithets in the privacy of their own homes? Perhaps. I would hope so.
Yet given developments and the oft-times byzantine rants, serious doubt cannot be condemned. Are we wrong to question whether these individuals possibly see David Duke’s image when they groom in the morning?
The recent revelations involving Virginia governor Ralph Northam and his Attorney General Mark Herring cause one to wonder how much of what we see is what we get?
These men, who to all outward appearances have showed few hints of prejudice are, at a minimum, guilty of latent bigotry and horrible judgment that, in and of itself, should lead us to question their fitness to serve in their current positions.
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These suspects are Democrats, stripping that party – my party – of any chance at partisan outrage. Moreover, freshman U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., has embarrassed herself and the party with anti-Semitic comments that do a disservice to all of us.
There were attempts to apologize but they fell flat. Apparently these offenses are not peculiar to any one political tribe.
Yet, in the zeal to offer across the board indignation, it would be disingenuous to suggest that Democrats have the same disregard for civil rights and a similar insensitivity to women as do Republicans.
Through its tacit approbation, the Party of Lincoln has become content to become the party of King, Arpaio, LePage and, of course, President Donald Trump.
My misgivings stem from the fact that countless Republicans are looking to blame Donald Trump for his tasteless and ill-informed tirades. Are these self-serving disclaimers trustworth? Are we to accept that the members of his ubiquitous base and their silent partners on Capitol Hill are products of his creation rather than the obverse?
Surely, there are many decent Republicans who have adhered to the party line for legitimate, if not noble, reasons. Why have their occasionally eloquent voices not been heard during President Donald Trump’s most misanthropic and grotesque diatribes?
Eight hundred thousand people were without paychecks due to his most recent intransigent, bellicose, and xenophobic position on the Great Wall of Mexico.
The only sound heard from that side of the aisle was the one-handed applause of colossal indifference. Subterranean bigotry can do more damage than its flagrant cousin, especially when our fearless, feckless leader allows it to bubble to the surface ignoring its pervasive impact.
For them, Trump has legitimized their perverse attitudes, reconciled their allegedly grandiose hope for America, feigned aspirations such as patriotism and national security. Such semantics masquerade like a beautifully clothed ugly baby – regrettably, the harsh truth must always be confronted: some well-adorned babies are still ugly, “breathtakingly” so.
Differences of opinion are to be welcomed. But all views should share a common sense of decency. Normalizing anti-social ramblings and vending them as sane political discourse is unacceptable.
At the State of the Union, Republican legislators applauded more vigorously than proud parents at their oldest child’s valedictory graduation speech. Many, such as U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Cornyn, are regular passengers on the sycophant express.
Occasionally, they disembark, and appear to be rational legislators. But their silence in the face of most of the White House’s excesses is reprehensible.
If they are truly just foot soldiers in a conservative army saddled with a corrupt general, they should stand up as proud members of the GOP and say that they have had it.
But should we solely blame Donald Trump for the country’s woes and the total lack of camaraderie that grips our nation?
If we are searching for historical analogies to compare this president to other public figures past and present, forget Herodotus, Shelby Foote, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham, and other notable historians. Simply go the fiction route and center on Mary Shelley.
We have all manifested aspects of ignorance, discriminatory thoughts, laziness, arrogance, and disloyalty. But for some of the citizenry, these foibles are not occasional slip-ups or aberrations of the psyche, but rather vital components of their own tortured thinking and actions.
Some of those individuals have had enough savvy to avoid spewing their venom publicly, but they have craved a champion to normalize their view of the world. Then along came Donald Trump. They now have their Frankenstein. Trump’s base aren’t his offspring. They’re his primogenitors. Trump didn’t create the malaise. He capitalized on it.
But where Frankenstein’s monster was an innocent who couldn’t control his impulses, and paid for it, Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. He relishes every disingenuous, adversarial minute, witness his most recent juvenile handling of the infamous “wall” fiasco.
The megalomaniacal Doctor Frankenstein would acknowledge that his experiment was a failure.
Not so with Republicans. Apparently they got what they wanted. But shouldn’t they be just a little bit chagrined? Should not a small part of them want to dismantle the creation and pray that its various components will never again be re-stitched as a single, dysfunctional corpus loosed on the free world?
To all Republicans, especially self-proclaimed conservatives, why not distance yourself from a birther-obsessed individual who was unaware that the magnificent Frederick Douglass, unfortunately had met his maker over a century ago?
Undress the bigots, the xenophobes, the misogynists, those frauds who would wrap their warped mentalities in a robe of legitimate conservatism, dragging you down in the process. They do not serve you. And they mock you more than any progressives or champions on the left could.
Expose them, reject them, and, in the process, regain your self-respect. If you have any misgivings about standing up for what is clearly right, propriety over party, take a page from such Trump critics as George F. Will, Joe Scarborough, Richard Painter and others.
Let the world know that you can be trusted and that your belief system can survive any “fly on the wall” observations. Save your souls and send this pretender packing, along with his unwelcome bedfellows who would want no one to know what they say at the dinner table.
Michael J. Cozzillio is a Distinguished and Emeritus Professor of Law at Widener Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Pa.