Bankole: Principles should rule over partisanship

Bankole Thompson
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette and Vice President Mike Pence stand together after a GOP unity rally at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

  “It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared in 2016, as he launched a successful blockage of former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

I agree with that principled statement from McConnell. The legislative branch of government must always serve as a check on the executive office. As Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers in 1969, told me in an interview a decade ago, “The U.S. president is not a king.”

But the problem with McConnell’s sanctimonious remarks justifying his opposition to Obama’s pick for the highest court then is that he and others in the Republican party do not seem willing now to apply that principle to President Donald Trump on a host of issues.

They are onboard with the politics of Trumpism where a critical review of the president is regarded a mortal sin, even if it contradicts the values they once trumpeted as foundational to the world’s greatest democracy. 

Simple, common-sense critique of this era, which is a demonstration of conscience as exemplified by late Sen. John McCain and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, now leads to political castration inside the GOP.  

The consequence of this kind of hardline politics is contained in a poll this newspaper revealed last week showing that Trumpian Republican candidates in Michigan, including their gubernatorial flagbearer Bill Schuette, could face serious trouble in November.

Schuette has bragged repeatedly about securing the support of the president by playing on the Trump mantra of “Make America Great Again,” with his own version of “Help Michigan Win Again.” That may prove to be a liability at the voting booth. As the poll indicated, independents, who are not eating at the table of party loyalty, remain skeptical.

But if you are knee-deep in Trumpism, it’s easy to roll your eyes at a poll that gives us a snapshot of the current political temperature in the state. In fact, some of the candidates in question have already done so, using the president’s “fake news” refrain to try to dismiss the survey.

Still, each day in politics is priceless. It is long enough to change the trajectory of any campaign, let alone two years since the Trump presidency was born. Because every day appears to bring with it new reports that have rendered some of the once conscientious Republican members of Congress mute in front of the television cameras, as well as squirm at the line of questioning from reporters.

Others are afraid to go on the record to offer any kind of reaction to the news of the day. Instead, they act as if what is happening is normal and commendable when it is not. They are also worried that they would be seen to be out of line with the dictates of the new GOP that seems to pledge full loyalty to its leader, not the bedrock principles that have guided this republic since its founding in 1776.

People should exercise the right to disagree with policies and not be labeled as the arch enemy. 

I recall a diversity leadership gathering at my home several years ago, where one of the guests was teasing the late Michigan Republican strategist Paul Welday, who was in attendance. Paul and I looked at each other and smiled, because we both agreed that the idea that one's ideological persuasion should preclude interaction or friendship with someone of the opposite view is nonsensical. Irrespective of our differences on public policy, we are still bound by a common humanity and interest in seeing the state become the best.

If Trumpism dies in Michigan in November -- as the Detroit News poll suggests -- it would mark the resurrection of principled politics. While both Republicans and Democrats tout party loyalty by pandering to their base of supporters, it should not be at the expense of some fundamental propositions we hold so dear. That includes respect for both the freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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