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Follow(ing) the Leader or Leadership

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The Impeachment of Donald John Trump, 45th President of the United States has made me ponder the difference between leaders and leadership.  I have come to the conclusion that Republicans require leaders and Democrats want leadership. Following a leader means you have no trust in your ability to discern facts or make a decision, so you need someone to tell you where to go. The following of leadership means you have a point of view that is based on facts and reflection and you need someone to put into action what you cannot. The familiar and trite political refrain is that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line, “therein lies the rub.”  

Depending on your political side of the aisle, that phrase has been twisted to either mean Democrats are emotional or Republicans are followers. I read an interesting article written by a conservative, W. James Antle III, where he contends that ‘Republican primary voters junked that model [of falling in line] in spectacular fashion when they chose Trump in 2016.’ I disagree with Mr. Antle, I think Mr. Trump is the predicted outcome of years of Republicans falling in line. My proof of this is the current articles of impeachment standoff between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Republicans have been building their monster since Ronald Reagan issued a statement, lifted from California’s Republican Party chairman, Gaylord B. Parkinson, imparting the so-called 11th Commandment, and what ultimately became GOP propagandist orthodoxy  “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” The extension of this was Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) during the Impeachment debate comparing President Trump’s self-imposed travails to those of Jesus Christ:

Sure, it was a silly and capricious argument but more dangerous was that Rep. Loudermilk may have believed what he was saying. Republican orthodoxy and conservative white evangelicals did not denounce Loudermilk, they lined-up, clutched tightly their soon to be discarded copies of Christian Today and genuflected before their dear leader.  Unlike the undying devotion to Trump from the GOP, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, currently the most powerful Democrat in the country has faced-down opposition from within her own party, as well as without. She fought off Ohio conservatives like Democrat Tim Ryan and the more liberal Marcia Fudge, who did not love her leadership.  

The leader and leadership questions have persisted from FDR to Trump. Roosevelt’s  New Deal was a tenuous piece of legislation when proposed; Republicans labeled it “socialism” while Democrats thoughtfully considered it and wondered if it went far enough.  Eventually, Democrats agreed that the New Deal was the way to go and followed FDR's leadership. During the Lyndon Johnson administration, with the Vietnam War raging, Democrats hounded Johnson out of running for President in 1968, and love did not influence or color the Democratic opinion. In contrast, the election of Richard M. Nixon, marking the end of the New Deal coalition and middle-class growth, ultimately expanded American participation with his Vietnamization policy, and the final withdrawal from the conflict came over the protestations of the Republican party who were still relying on his pledge of “peace with honor.” Nixon went so far as to oversee the deaths of kids on college campuses to prosecute the war and thereby keeping Republicans in line.

Ronald Reagan’s presidency brought us Iran-Contra, and Republicans—including decorated war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who lied to Congress, the country, his friends and enemies, did it because staying in line with the Party, was more important than the love of country. All my adult voting-life, whenever I questioned inequity, policy or racism, Republicans would wave a flag and point; well, this time I get to wave the flag and point.  Republicans are publicly and willfully disavowing their solemn oath of responsibility; just to stay in line. White Nationalism has entered the portals of the White House and the GOP has turned their backs on the growing threat to Jews and people of color; just to stay in line.  Loyal Americans have had their patriotism questioned because of the word of Vladimir Putin, and Republicans just to stay in line. Quite frankly, I prefer being in love.

Vote in 2020 for Change.