The silent Republican | Opinion

Posted Nov 29, 2020

By Lee Seglem

Lee Seglem, who retired earlier this year as executive director of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, asks of those in New Jersey who remained steadfastly speechless and loyal to Trump until very, very recently, I would like an answer to this question: How is it that otherwise intelligent people like you, people who grew up playing by the rules, people who usually recognize the difference between right and wrong, between a lie and the truth — how is it that you so readily and willfully constructed a blind spot around everything Trump?

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I love my country.

I hate what has happened to it.

So while this is all still fresh in our minds, let’s remember what we’ve been through these last four years — particularly these last few weeks — and vow to never forget.

The United States of America, an anchor of the free world, a beacon of Democracy, was on the verge of being dragged into the shadows like the victim of a mugging, or worse. The incumbent president’s treacherous refusal to respect the will of the voters — indeed, his blatant autocratic attempt to subvert that will — was an attack on our core as a free nation, on our Constitution as the governing soul of our nation and on the rule of law as the ultimate guard rail separating us from an abyss of political chaos.

The good news, of course, is that when push did come to shove — when Trump and his (for the most part) incompetent henchmen tried to intimidate their way into chang-ing vote counts in Georgia, Michigan and elsewhere, they were thwarted on the ground — not by powerful political leaders — but by state and local election officials who were doing their job, and doing it with courage.

That’s important because only in time will it become clear just how far we traveled down the road to becoming a banana republic before this speeding clown car was forced onto something resembling an off-ramp. Assuming, as has been reported, that Trump is finally prepared to give up the keys, maybe we can now get back to the real business of making America great again, whatever that means.

But there will be a reckoning.

Many people, many “important” people, stood silently by throughout most of this degradation or actively defended it. They call themselves Republicans. Well, here’s a bulletin for them: The Republican Party no longer exists because you gave it away. You handed it to a cult of personality led by a criminal con artist and then let it be stripped bare of pretty much anything resembling socially redeeming value. What’s left? An ugly frame-work of a party dominated by lies, self-delusion, isolationism, racism, greed, corruption and plain old willful stupidity.

Elections do have consequences, goes the old cliche, and it is true: There are winners, and there are losers, and the outcome typically provides foundational policy direction and a substantive path toward the future. So, we have a choice. We can pursue such a path by working together, all Americans, or we can resume our race to the bottom by giving the divisive loser more oxygen. Which way will depend to a great extent on the ability of the GOP to reinvent itself as a respectable, responsible and viable political organization.

Judging from what we’ve seen and heard so far, don’t hold your breath.

To those of you in New Jersey who remained steadfastly speechless, loyal and partisan until very, very recently when it became clear which way the wind was blowing — I’m looking at you, former governor and presumed statesman Tom Kean, and you, GOP gubernatorial wannabe Jack Ciatarelli, and you, Rep. Chris Smith, to name just a few — I would like an answer to this question: How is it that otherwise intelligent people like you, people who grew up playing by the rules, people who usually recognize the difference between right and wrong, between a lie and the truth, between cheating and fair play, indeed people who have frequently lectured us on the merits of patriotism and family values — how is it that you so readily and willfully constructed a blind spot around everything Trump?

When did public morality start to embody the selfish act of putting party over country?

Certainly, you recognize that the viral stew of lies and propaganda spewed from this White House — a pandemic in itself — has convinced many Americans that their electoral system is a joke. And, abroad, one can only imagine the level of deep-seated disillusionment that has taken hold (unless, of course, your name is Putin). No matter what happens, those bells cannot be unrung.

As someone who spent an entire career pursuing facts, investigating corruption and trying to hold public officials accountable, I must say that what is oozing from our body politic these days, and has been for the last four years — and what is being sanctioned across the nation by a legion of enablers, vocal and silent — is some of the most fundamentally corrosive and corrupting behavior I have even seen.

So go ahead and pretend that what we witnessed with our own eyes was not an attempted electoral hijacking. Suspend your disbelief and ignore it if you will.

But, in the meantime, please take the nuclear codes from this lame duck and tell him to keep his grubby little hands the hell off my country.

A former newspaper reporter and editor, Lee Seglem retired earlier this year as executive director of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-11-30 03:06:57 -0800