Opinion

Renée Graham

Dear Republicans: You know you can shut this mess down, right?

Globe Staff illustration

Hey GOP: Y’all know you can shut this mess down, right?

Instead you slump onto news talk shows lamenting the dismal state of affairs engulfing this bewildered nation. You’ve been there every step of the way since Jan. 20, as we’ve all been forced to understand such difficult things as collusion, emoluments, the 25th Amendment, and Jared Kushner’s voice.

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Yet you behave like you’ve suddenly awakened to find President Trump looming over you, golf club in hand, ready to strike. You are even more responsible for this reign of incompetence and potential criminality masquerading as a presidency than those who voted for Trump. Still, you act as if you can simply tsk-tsk and finger-wag your way through every inflammatory tweet, statement, and action, as if the president is nothing more than a naughty puppy that has soiled the carpet.

All this comes as Trump has been publicly savaging Attorney General Jeff Sessions, menacing Republicans who kicked to the curb the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, and running the White House like America’s temp agency. That’s why I’m not terribly impressed with Senator Jeff Flake’s much-publicized “woke” moment as he speaks about the unmitigated disaster that is the Trump presidency.

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An excerpt from Flake’s book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” appeared in Politico this week, under the provocative headline “My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump.” One of the few steadfast “Never Trump” Republicans through the campaign and election, Flake writes, “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. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.”

Stating the obvious when you have the power to do so much more is what passes for political courage these days. Every Republican already recognizes what Flake is saying, but they’re all waiting to see if they survive this unnatural disaster with minimal damage going into next year’s midterms. (Flake is up for reelection and Trump, who likes grudges as much as loyalty oaths, wants Flake gone.)

In parsing Flake’s comments, his issue with the president is that some of Trump’s actions are “profoundly unconservative” — not profoundly illogical, profoundly incriminating, or profoundly unconstitutional. Flake isn’t concerned that Trump is harming the nation he was elected to lead or turning America’s standing in the world into a punch line. He frets that Trump is sullying an already virulent political strain. Oh, and did I mention that Flake, above all else, is flogging his new book, which seems just subversive-lite enough to raise his national profile and burnish his political aspirations?

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Don’t count on Flake or any other Republican to do anything to stop Trump. Three Republican senators (and Flake wasn’t one of them) who kneecapped the skinny repeal were hailed as heroes; the bar for actual Republican resistance is so low it might as well be six feet under.

We’re past the six-month mark of a presidency knotted up in investigations, lies, and chaos — and this was before the abrupt firing of Anthony Scaramucci, who spent his brief stint as communications director acting like he was auditioning for a community theater version of “The Sopranos.”

Meanwhile, the GOP, which controls both legislative branches of government, acts as if they can’t fathom how to end this dark American moment. It’s as if they can’t understand power unless it is being used to curtail rights and imperil lives. Just a few months ago, Republicans scrambled onto the “Make American Great Again” bandwagon heading to the White House; now, as Trump’s administration slides ever deeper into turmoil, the GOP stands impotent, more sniveling pity party than empowered political party.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.
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