Republicans Are Now the Cult of Trump

Acquitting the president is an affront to democracy.

Donald Trump
Voters wait outside a convention center in Rochester, Minnesota, where American president Donald Trump is giving a speech, October 5, 2018 (Lorie Shaul)

Donald Trump tried to extort Ukraine into announcing an investigation that would hurt his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. He broke the law by withholding congressionally mandated aid from the country, which is fighting a Russian-backed insurgency in its east, and put his personal interests above the country’s.

These facts are not in dispute. Some of Trump’s Republican allies in the United States Senate have gone so far as to argue that, because they knew exactly what the president had done wrong, they didn’t need to hear from witnesses in what they called a trial.

Yet, with the honorable exception of Mitt Romney, they all voted to acquit the president of abuse on power on Wednesday.

I’ve argued before that Republicans have put party before country and are destroying institutions to save themselves from the repercussions of a criminal presidency. Wednesday’s acquittal does not come as a surprise. It will go down in history as the moment the Republican Party completed its transformation from a center-right political party into a personality cult.

Allowing Trump to get away with inviting a foreign power to interfere in an American election — for the second time — is an affront to democracy. Allowing him to break Congress’ laws without consequence makes a mockery of the separation of powers.

Every American knows the story of Benjamin Franklin, who, when asked what form of government the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had given the young country, told a woman: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Republicans no longer can.