The Civil Response Is to Call Out Fascism

For all of us who were literally sickened by the pandering and lies in Trump’s State of the Union speech, Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke for us.

While right-wing media outlets ran with the moment, calling Pelosi’s behavior “shameful,” it is interesting to note that the usual civility scolds were silent about it.

When Pelosi ripped up Trump’s speech, I don’t think it was simply a response to the lies and distortions he had just uttered. The specter of Senate Republicans refusing to call witnesses in the impeachment trial, followed by their determination to acquit Trump for abusing his power—even as they admit that he is guilty—has irrevocably broken something in our politics.

Of course, Donald Trump has been hammering away at that for years now, with his bullying attacks on anyone he deems to be a threat. But it is now clear that the entire Republican Party is not simply willing to embrace his lies: they’re doing so shamelessly. Moreover, their actions pose a threat to our democracy.

To understand how the Republican Party has broken our politics, take a look at how a nonpartisan reporter like Jill Lawrence responded to the news about their refusal to hold Trump accountable. She begins by writing about her interactions in the past with Republicans like Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Susan Collins. She doesn’t recognize them now.

These politicians are now strangers to me. Their whole party is untethered — not just from reality and its own history, but also from the Constitution itself… After this, there will be no way to take seriously any GOP argument that relies on the “original intent” of the Constitution…

For the 40 years I have written about politics, there has been something to like or respect about nearly every politician I’ve encountered. Even when I passionately disagreed with someone on tax or gun or war policy, there was always at least one thing: They welcomed immigrants, wanted to save the planet or were willing to defy elements of their own party to seek a “grand bargain” on taxes and spending. Maybe they were dishonest and had to resign in disgrace, but not before creating the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Lately, the Founders have also been top of mind. Many of the most prominent owned slaves, and it’s hard to get past that, even considering their times. But they also laid what they hoped was a permanent foundation for an aspirational nation striving toward its ideals. They clearly anticipated and feared someone like Trump, and tried to give us the remedies and protections we’d need.

Those safeguards have failed. Let’s hope the union the framers envisioned doesn’t fail, as well.

The reason why Pelosi spoke for so many of us and silenced the civility police was captured by this gif that symbolized what she did.

Right now, due to the fact that Republicans refuse to hold the president accountable, our country is teetering on the edge of fascism. Merriam-Webster defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader.” The civil response is to call that out.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.