If Republicans in the United States Senate have their way, Donald Trump, the most dishonest, the most corrupt, and the most power-abusing POTUS in American history, will be acquitted. And in that moment, America’s democratic republic will officially be dead. It will have been murdered through cynicism, idolatry, greed, laziness, and hatred. And yes, through abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the two impeachable offenses with which Trump has been charged. It will have been killed in broad daylight. And with the eager cooperation and “leadership” of the Grim Reaper himself, Mitch McConnell.
This moment has been inevitable, I suppose, since the Republican Party sold what tiny shards of its soul might have still been flickering. Republicans have become the torch-bearers of Charlottesville inside the Senate chamber. They might as well be screaming truth and justice will NOT replace us!
Instead, what will replace our democracy is a monarchy. The man who announced that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would not abandon him can now count Republican Senators as his defenders no matter the crime. It is astonishing, stupefying, horrifying, and infuriating to realize that one political party in America is willing to sell out the country and its citizens to a charlatan, to a huckster, to a buffoon, to a man so corrupt that honest dealing isn’t even part of his lexicon. Because that’s how much they hate the rest of us. That is the truth. It’s not love of country. It’s not even some distorted notion of patriotism, of defending fairness and the rule of law. This is about the racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant fervor, and other hatreds that define the Republican Party and its soon-to-be-crowned King.
In wrestling with this reality–and in knowing it was coming since the day Trump was elected–I have veered between rage and sorrow. That seesawing continues. I cannot change or influence the cynical, race-baiting, America-hating Republicans that will serve up our country on a silver platter to a man who will now be utterly unfettered, and whose supporters within and outside government will be as well. That army I cannot defend against in any formal way. I can only try to resist its evil will and its threats, both active and passive. What I can do, however, is call out the rank cowardice among so-called “leaders” in the Jewish community.
While rank and file Jews in the greatest numbers voted against Trump–because we knew what he was and understood the threat he represented–since his election, the abject failure of some Jews to speak out against him (and the moral obscenity of others defending him), has been a soul-rotting spectacle. The rabbis who run to Rome to shake hands with Pope Francis and implore him to speak out against anti-Semitism, but who remain mute in the face of Trump’s eager embrace of white supremacists, of the very anti-Semites Pope Francis is somehow to protect us from, are but one example. Their pulpit silence, their refusal to call out the cruelty, the injustice, the constant scapegoating, not only of Jews, but of people of color, of immigrants, of Muslims, is a moral stain they will never be able to wash off.
I remain grateful, however, for the members of my community who have spoken out, including the brave pulpit rabbis who have refused to take America’s turn toward fascism–and now toward unrestrained monarchy–as a given, as something unworthy of challenge. I am grateful beyond words for the likes of Adam Schiff, and of Alexander Vindman. But my gratitude turns to rage and horror at Alan Dershowitz, a man for whom it seems the term fame whore was actually coined. It is not just the rank idiocy and facile cynicism of his argument in defense of Trump’s indefensible conduct, which amounts to this: a POTUS engaged in self-serving re-election conduct that puts our national security at risk and violates the norms and standards of statesmanship (not to mention is rooted in bribery, threats, and cheating), is somehow engaged in public service and therefore cannot be impeached. It is his willingness to be that Jew.
So I ask of those who would know, what kind of kaddish do we recite for the death of democracy? And what kind of kaddish do we recite for the souls of those who helped kill it with their active participation, or with their silence?