If we had a five-dollar bill for every time an elected Republican dismissively told a reporter, upon being questioned about a stunning statement from Donald Trump, that ‘he says lots of things’ we would be surprised at our pile of cash. Over the years Trump has poured forth angry tweets about the way women look or how he should be reinstated to office, despite his being rejected by millions of voters in the 2020 election. But this weekend Trump made a statement, that even by his ‘standards’, was supremely troubling.
Saturday, Trump made clear his desire for the termination of the Constitution’s election provisions so to mesh with his unfounded claims of mass electoral fraud in 2020. The words and tone of his comment were a prime example of what must never be allowed to gain a fraction of an inch in our democracy, especially since we already have suffered serious attacks on the foundations of the country. Such recent history only underscores why this treasonous comment merited quick and overwhelming repudiation. But only a few Republicans found their love of country and self-respect moved them to a microphone. Congressman Mike Turner from Ohio and newly elected congressman Mike Lawler from New York are to be applauded for knowing their high school civics still resonates.
But while watching ABC’s This Week Sunday morning I was truly taken aback by the guarded hesitation of the chair of the Republican Governance Group, Congressman Dave Joyce. The exchange with George Stephanopoulos was one of those moments when the viewer is not sure whether it is best to cringe and keep going forward or look away and hope it ends soon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I have to ask you a question about Donald Trump’s statement yesterday talking about suspending the Constitution. Your reaction?
JOYCE: Well, you know, when President Trump was in office, I didn’t make a habit of speaking out on his tweet du jour. I don’t know what came out on is – whatever his new social platform is. But, you know, people were not interested in looking backwards. The people who gave us the majority — and, again, we – we – we barely won it. We barely eked it out. So, let’s be straight about where we’re at. They gave us an opportunity, and we need to perform. And we need to care about the issues that they care about, which is, how do they lower the cost at the pump?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Donald Trump was your nominee in 2016 and 2020. You voted for him in 2016 and 2020.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now he’s talking about suspending the Constitution. Can you support a candidate in 2024 who’s for suspending the Constitution?
JOYCE: Well, again, it’s early. I think there’s going to be a lot of people in the primary. I think, at the end of the day, you will — whoever the Republicans end up pick, I’ll fall in behind because that’s –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if it’s Donald Trump and he’s called for suspending the Constitution?
JOYCE: Well, again, I think it’s going to be a big field. I don’t think Donald Trump’s going to clear out the field like he did in ’16.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking you, if he’s the nominee, will you support him?
JOYCE: I will support whoever the Republican nominee is. And just don’t think that, at this point, he will be able to get there because I think there’s a lot of other good quality candidate out there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s a remarkable statement. You just – you’d support a candidate who’s come out for suspending the Constitution?
There is a lot to unpack from that dispiriting display by a member of the GOP who knows better than he allowed the nation to witness. The wish-washy pablum is a weak and dangerous response to the party base that requires some tough and honest conversations so to move the needle away from the lies and utter fabrications designed to smear the electoral process of 2020. Joyce makes the case for what is wrong with a huge portion of the Republican Party.
It is clear that Joyce does not subscribe to the lies about voter irregularities or massive fraud as purported by Trump and yet is willing to support a potential presidential candidate in spite of blatant and provable lies. A democracy can not abide this type of unreasonableness. Such tactics by Trump and his supporters are a direct assault on the foundations of the county and its political institutions. So, yes, it is more than galling to hear the casual dismissal of Trump’s rant on the Constitution which then allows for his base to continue to claim ‘that’s just Trump being Trump’.
The former president of the United States said portions of the Constitution should be terminated, an open attack on American democracy. Trump’s behavior over the past 6 years has allowed the GOP to become a cesspool of anti-democratic beliefs. That was bad enough when he was the one fanning the flames. But when there is an allowance made for his dangerous rhetoric without an absolute and resounding rebuke to Trump’s rhetoric about the Constitution further alerts the majority in the nation that we have even more cause to be worried about our democracy.