What do you do when your moral ideals meet the real world? Particularly when the real world is in diametric opposition with your moral ideals? Different people find different solutions. For general Mark Milley and Kirstjen Nielsen’s former Chief of Staff Miles Taylor the solution was to work quietly within the system and try to keep the system as safe as they could — under the circumstances.
General Mark Milley, who served as Trump’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Miles Taylor, who served as Kirstjen Nielsen’s Chief of Staff when she headed the Department of Homeland Security, both serve up cautionary tales. Both had a sort of Hobson’s choice of doing what they could to safeguard their country or the unthinkable, do nothing and let a man like Donald Trump destroy it.
I wrote an article about Miles Taylor exactly 3 years and ten days ago called, “Mike ‘Lodestar’ Pence? Not so fast.” The article began, “There have been many guesses as to the authorship of the New York Times op-ed piece ‘I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.’ The truth of the matter is no one really knows who it is, not even those who will later be ‘vindicated’ by a lucky guess. One thing for certain: it almost certainly is not Mike Pence.”
Pence was thought by many to be the author because he frequently employed the word “lodestar” in his speeches. The author of the piece also used the word. Hardly sufficient evidence that Joseph Goebbels betrayed Hitler.
We’ve now known for almost a year that the author of that piece was in fact Miles Taylor, not Pence. But I did not lionize the anonymous author three years ago and I do not do so now. I wrote at the time that his politics suck and they still do. He was in favor of “deregulation, [Trump’s awful] historic tax reform, [and] a more robust military.” But that aside, what Miles Taylor did was heroic and I am glad he was there.
The same with General Milley. He wasn’t perfect but he kept the country safe and I’m glad, on balance, that he was there. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened had he not been. The worst scenario could literally be that you and I, brothers and sisters, could be dead or dying from the effects of global radiation poisoning or nuclear winter right now. Milley stopped Trump from doing many crazy things including the unthinkable: starting a nuclear war as a pretext for staying in office.
The problem is both men were traitors. Miles Taylor worked in secret against the will and purpose of the president of the United States and General Milley interfered with the sacred principle of civilian oversight of the military. Both participated in a kind of soft coup. Both were acting unconstitutionally, in contravention of their individual sacred oaths.
And yet they were both essential. They were put in an awful place and Trump put them there. Trump put them there because he did the unthinkable, he betrayed the United States of America by placing his own greedy ego in first place, before everything else, and there was no second place. With the exception of Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, the Founding Fathers never really anticipated this. And they didn’t know about nuclear bombs, of course.
This is why we must never have another Republican president. Republicans today have become so toxic, so hateful, so deceitful and so dangerous that the next Republican president will destroy American democracy as sure as I am sitting here typing this. In order for us to survive another Republican administration we will need to have men and women willing to act outside the authority of the Constitution in order to keep the world safe from them. Next time, with decent people abandoning the Republican Party right and left, there may be no such men and women available.
Five years ago I would have agreed with the Founding Fathers, that it was next to impossible for Americans to elect a greedy, selfish, criminal, stupid, anti-American pile of crap like Donald Trump. Not only do I not think that today I think it’s inevitable that it will happen again. It will happen as surely as the fact that one day we will have another Republican president. That is why we can’t.
The Republican Party is becoming more radical, not less, more corrupt, not less, more antithetical to democracy, not less. We may not see another Republican in the Oval Office for several years, possibly even decades, but don’t count on it. Remember, it took America just a couple of months more than six years to elect Ronald Reagan after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.
The Nazi Party is illegal in Germany. This is no paper tiger of a law, either. There are men and women right now rotting in German prisons for standing in violation of that law. We must do the same to the Republican Party. We must make it illegal to be a Republican, we must abolish it.
Part of the reason the Republican Party remains legitimate is because we speak and act as if it is. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” as Shakespeare put it. As long as we allow the very notion that the Republican Party is a legitimate part of the American political discourse we will continue to make it a viable force for evil. One day that evil will eventually take over the country, and the next time they do they just might not give it back. Ever.
If there’s no way for us to outlaw Republicans right now then we must do everything in our power to see to it that they never regain power. That is an awesome and awful and desperate responsibility, especially in light of all of our other awesome and awful and desperate responsibilities for saving our planet. But that is the state of the union just now, and it’s ours and ours alone to keep that union together. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.