Fifty years ago America was in agony. Their unity at home and their reputation abroad worsened. Today, the country is again facing a deep political crisis, and the summer of 1968 is instructive. One party controls the White House and both chambers of Congress, as was the case when Lyndon Johnson was president. But this crisis is fundamentally different: fifty years ago, the presidential party had the will to respond. On April 4, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead in Memphis, and civil unrest broke out in a hundred cities. The next day, Johnson wrote to Parliament Speaker John W. McCormack, a Massachusetts Democrat who asked Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act and said, "If the nation so desperately needs the healing balm of unity, a brutal wound is needed our conscience on all of us this question: what else can I do to achieve brotherhood and equality among all Americans? "The action went on April 1
But Democrats did not shy away from using their checks and balances against Johnson. The Tet offensive, launched in January of the same year, undermined the government's claim that it would win the war in Vietnam. Arkansas senator J. William Fulbright had previously stated that escalation was folly and privately attempted to change Johnson's mind. When that failed, he invoked the constitutional responsibility of the Senate for Counseling and Consensus and, in 1966, convened a series of unprecedented public hearings on how to deal with the war. The following year, most Americans opposed it, and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota entered the race against a reigning president of his own party, arguing that duty had called him into questioning a policy of "questionable legality and questionable constitutionality." , 19659002] This summer, President Donald Trump has turned the foundations of American security on its head – opened a trade war with China, chastised US allies in Europe and at a press conference in Helsinki after a two-hour private meeting with President Vladimir Putin accepted his claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 elections. The Times reported that US intelligence officials had provided Trump with evidence that Putin himself ordered cyber attacks to influence the election results. A few days before the meeting in Helsinki, Special Adviser Robert Mueller accused a dozen Russian intelligence officials of sending detailed charges of hacking to democratic e-mail accounts. In another case, prosecutors also accused a Russian woman in Washington, Mariya Butina, of promoting a plot to influence the National Rifle Association. (Her lawyer rejected the charges.) And Trump praised the Russian leader.
The outcry, including from Republicans, was immediate. Senator John McCain said, "No previous president has ever quarreled in front of a tyrant." McCain's junior colleague from Arizona, Senator Jeff Flake, described Trump's behavior as "shameful." For the rest of the week, the president's allies tried to signal their independence. Asked if Trump had been wise to meet Putin in person, Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, said, "I would have suggested a different path." The Senate, in a rare act of unity, passed a non-binding resolution calling for Putin's request to interrogate American officials, a proposal Trump had kept but had finally rejected.
Even more remarkable was what did not happen. Nobody left the cabinet. No Republican senators took concrete steps to restrain or censor the president. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University, noted that "fifty years ago" elected officials, including the president, had basically been in favor of governance. They were not dismissive of the operation. They were careful in the way they did things because they understood the stakes of elected officials. None of that is right now. "
The pattern is already visible to the historians of tomorrow, when Trump described neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as" very good people "supporting an accused child molester for the Senate when he took children from their parents on the Mexican border When Coats of Russian cyberattacks said that "warning lights are flashing red again," the party did not press the president to defend himself, and in the meantime Trump returned from Helsinki and cursed again On the other hand, it was announced on Thursday that he had invited Putin to visit Washington in the fall – an invitation that Coats learned from an interviewer.
When the Republicans decide, To really prioritize the party, as the Democrats did in 1968, have several options. They could have the confirmation hearings n. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will stop until Trump steps up its pro-choice hackers and supports the investigation into Russian interference. (Bob Corker of Tennessee, who resigned from the Senate next year, called this idea a non-starter. "I like the candidate for the Supreme Court," he told reporters. "So what the hell?") They could vote candidates lower courts or threaten to change parties. At least they could host public hearings such as Fulbright to investigate Trump's trade or NATO or Russia. Most directly, they could pass a law to prevent President Robert Müller from firing; In April, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to propose a bill with this intention, with four Republicans joining Democratic members, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked him. The privilege of power carries the moral duty to use it.
In private, some Republican legislators offer a simply purposeful defense: they despise the president, but as long as he is popular with more than ninety percent. The party members who confront him would be the door to the primary challenges of open even more yielding successors. In truth, many Republicans are more comfortable with Trump than they want to admit. Although they shied away from pictures of children in cages on the border, the G.O.P. The Heads of State and Government agreed to Trump's actions against immigration, as they have their tariffs and attacks on Canada, Mexico and our European allies. Until that changes, this is the Republican Party of 2018.
In moments of American agony, we seek solace in the legends of our resilience. In 1968, we found the will to govern, unify, and examine a president who had lost his way. This is another moment for political courage. Only someone is missing to take it. ♦